More than Certification

The following was written by our wonderful friend, David Grafton, in response to a crane accident over in the UK.

“It is easy to point out what is wrong with a procedure –especially after it has been performed. This article is a good representation of 20/20 hindsight. Everyone who looks at these photos will know almost instantly that the crawler/track frames were not fully extended and the boom is at a very high angle. The crane tipped over, and came to rest on its counterweights. No injuries, possible little damage to the machine.

A closer look shows the crane was operating very close to an active roadway. The potential of injuries / fatalities to the traveling public is very high simply from the work taking place. Now add in the potential for a crane overturn due to a poor work platform, improper operation, loss of a suspended load, etc. and you can see the terrible possibilities. Note that the same would apply if the machine in question was a foundation drill rig.

Here in the US, crane operator certification is now mandatory. A large part of achieving certification is know how to safely operate a crane. Much of this information comes from the operators manual. I suspect there are several warnings in this crane’s manual indicating the danger of high boom angles, and not using the crane with the crawler/track frames fully extended. So why were they using this crane improperly?

This is where education and training come into play. Certification alone in no way assures the operator knows how to safely operate the crane they are assigned to. The operator must be educated and trained how to operate the crane, and a part of that training is to have them read and understand the operators manual – always. Hopefully, it is understood this applies to all types of deep foundation equipment, not just cranes.

As an employer, I suggest you begin the process of evaluating your equipment operators – not just cranes – to better understand their abilities for the tasks and equipment they are assigned to. Not only is it a requirement for crane operators now here in the US, it is a good idea, to ensure you do not set your equipment operators up for failure.

Have a safe day! “

U.S. Department of Labor Provides Interim Compliance Guidance For Crane Operators

This trade release comes directly from OSHA, so we are passing it along to you, our readers, as a public service announcement. 

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance on how to comply with crane operator certification requirements until the new final rule becomes effective.

OSHA proposed a rule in May 2018 to revise certification requirements, as recommended by construction stakeholders. OSHA is preparing to publish a final rule, but OSHA’s existing certification requirements will take effect on November 10, 2018, because OSHA’s final rule will not become effective prior to that date. The existing rule requires certification by crane type and lifting capacity. However, until the effective date of the new rule, once it is published, OSHA will accept operator certifications issued by type only, or by type and capacity.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Ask an Arborist: Travis Vickerson

Recently at Cranes101, we were fortunate to have arboriculture extraordinaire Travis Vickerson come by to give trainings and work on upcoming classes here on site. While he’s been with us, he was generous enough to answer a few questions to share with all of you.

Here’s a little bio on Travis:  

“ISA Certified Arborist, TCIA CTSP, TCIA Crew Leader Qualified, 17 years of arboriculture experience, Technical Rope Rescue Technician for 12 years and FEMA qualified Heavy Equipment Rigging Specialist (Cranes) for 10 years.  With a background in adult education methodology and training the adult learner, he has combined passion for safety with his ability to teach and instruct. After losing a friend to a climbing accident years ago, he has worked diligently to promote safety through education and training. In his spare time he enjoys traveling and can always be found to have a classic book tucked away in his bag. Enjoys learning all he can from everyone he meets and a huge fan of great food and bourbon.”



  1. If I am a small tree company and I am looking at getting into crane removals, what are some things to take into consideration that would justify the purchase of a crane?


First, they should be looking to rent one and work with that first, then slowly look at purchasing a machine that will fit their geographic service area, weight of logs and material and price point. I personally feel something like the Altec machine or National 45-142 is a great tree boom truck.


  1. Following up to that last question, I’ll have to make sure I have the right people on my crew to use the crane. What kind of qualifications should I be looking for if I need to hire?


The problem here that almost zero employees come to companies with credentials of any kind. What the employer should be doing is getting them basic OTJ training first in safety and safety operations, then get them TCIA tree care academy manuals in this order (chipper operator, chainsaw, ground ops specialist, tree climber(if they are gonna climb) then lastly tree care specialist). A TCIA crane operations specialist is best for any company that owns a crane or works with one on a regular basis. Also an employee needs EHAP, Aerial Rescue and First aid/cpr.


  1. What licensing is required by OSHA for crane work within the tree care industry?


None as long as you’re only lifting organic material, the problem comes in lifting other items such as stump grinders. Once you hook up a stump grinder or even a fake tree for a town Christmas tree you now fall under the ASME and OSHA regulations.


  1. Tree Care companies with cranes are exempt form the standard if they are only moving organic material. What are your thoughts? Should more standards be developed?


There should be a required operator’s license if you are using a crane period!

Licensing isn’t just about being qualified it shows a knowledge level to help prevent incidents. Far too often companies purchase cranes to do tree work and miss the formal knowledge and training aspect and end up having incidents over simple things that training and licensing can teach.

When looking at crane use in arboriculture, what is it that makes this work so dangerous?

Tree care companies are used to working with gravity in lowering tree pieces and even using momentum to make trees do what they need them to, with cranes your working against gravity and want no momentum in your picks. So it’s dangerous because of that shift in how work is done.


  1. 6. Why is crane use in arboriculture unique from every other industry a crane is used?


It’s unique but we are dealing with “live loads” meaning it’s estimated weighs and once attached the crane owns it, it can’t be reattached and reconfigured for another chance at lifting it or rigging it.


  1. How do you feel cranes have impacted the tree care industry over the past few years?


Increased efficiency but also increased frequency of incidents


  1. Do you feel that crane operators in the industry are adequately trained?


No, very few have any formal training; most are learning as they go.


  1. What is the best platform for training  within the tree care industry?


Workshops to get exposure and then hands-on training.


  1. What type of training is currently available for those in the industry for bucket training?


TCIA has an aerial lift specialist but it is only a 4 hr class


  1. Are there slings  and sling uses that are unique to this industry? If so can you elaborate on a few?


There is only one specific tree industry sling and that is the Mark Chisholm crane kit slings. They are dead eye slings made of endura braid dipped for a coating


  1. Where can a company go to get training on special slinging practices that you mentioned earlier?


TCIA best management practices manual.


  1. Tell me a little bit about your upcoming webinar. Who do you think should really tune in? What will participants come away with?


The upcoming webinar is going to be a basic intro to cranes, outrigger support, proper climber attachment and pros and cons of different slings. I think it’s a good webinar for anyone that uses a crane without formal training in the tree care industry.


Travis’s webinar will be hosted on August 28th, 2018, streaming live from Durham, NC! The time is TBA, so stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted.


If you have an arboricultural question you’d like to ask Travis, leave a comment below and maybe we can feature it on a future post!


As always, if you’d like a Cranes101 consultation regarding your arborist or crane crew training needs or simply more information about our services, give us a call at 508-966-4100.


More Info on OSHA’s Crane Ruling

This article is reprinted with permission from the NRLA, meant to provide more information and context about the situation we posted about last week. 


Update on OSHA Crane Rule May 8, 2018

This is a reminder that the OSHA crane rules are scheduled to go into effect on November 10, 2018. As of that date, OSHA will be enforcing their new rules concerning cranes and derricks and, at this time, NRLA does not expect any further delays in the implementation of this rule. This rule includes articulating or knuckle boom cranes.

Beginning November 10, 2018, certain activities will require the operator to be certified to perform those activities. The training for a certified crane operator is not quick, simple, or cheap. Most approved instructors charge more than $1,000 per person for the certification process as it requires a two-day class, passing a written test on general knowledge and on articulating boom cranes, and then passing a practical test where the operator must physically perform certain actions in an articulating boom crane to show their competency and knowledge of the rules. These classes also have limited capacity and availability due to the time required to conduct the practical tests.

NRLA is providing members with the following overview of the rules.


The rule was passed in 2010 and was originally set to be enforced starting November 10, 2014. The rule was postponed until November 10, 2017 because there were not enough certified trainers to conduct the necessary training and certification required, and was once again postponed in August of 2017 until November 10, 2018. This is a federal rule and will apply to all states.

This is an extensive rule that deals with various equipment from boom trucks all the way up to tower cranes. As part of the rulemaking process, there were some exemptions made, including some for the delivery of building materials to construction sites. The rule defines certain situations as being considered facilitation of the construction process; therefore, they would fall under the crane standard and would require the operator of an articulating or knuckle boom crane (as well as other cranes) to be certified to conduct construction activities.

What is NOT covered by the rule

The following activities are considered purely a function of delivery of materials and do not fall under the crane standard; therefore, do NOT require a certified operator to perform these activities:

1. Placing or stacking material on the ground without arranging in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

2. Placing trusses or other prefabricated components onto the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

3. Placing precast concrete elements on the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting.

What is EXEMPTED from the rule

There are other activities that are considered part of the crane standard, but have an exemption from requiring a certified operator to perform these activities; however, please note that for these listed activities to be exempted, the following must ALL apply:

1. The articulating crane must be equipped with a fork or cradle assembly directly attached (not suspended from the boom by a load line) AND;

2. The articulating crane must be equipped with a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device.

If you meet those two qualifications, then the following activities ARE EXEMPTED from the crane rule, meaning you will not need a certified operator to perform the following activities:

1. Placing or stacking material on the ground without arranging in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

2. Placing or stacking material on an elevated area of a structure (such as a balcony, upper deck, or roof) prior to being unpacked/unloaded from pallets;

3. Placing trusses or other prefabricated components onto the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

4. Placing precast concrete elements onto the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

5. Transferring sheet goods onto a structure, so long as the articulating crane is not used to hold, support, or stabilize the material in a way that facilitates construction – such as holding the material in place while it is attached to the structure;

6. Transferring packaged goods onto a structure, so long as the articulating crane is not used to hold, support, or stabilize the material in a way that facilitates construction – such as holding the material in place while it is attached to the structure.

What is NOT EXEMPTED from the rule

OSHA has listed specific activities that are NOT EXEMPTED from the rule; therefore, they would always require the use of a certified operator to perform these activities. These activities require a certified operator in ALL circumstances, whether or not the articulating crane has a fork or cradle assembly and/or a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device. These activities include:

1. Arranging materials on the ground in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

2. Holding, supporting, or stabilizing material in a way that facilitates construction – such as holding the material in place while it is attached to the structure;

3. Transferring a prefabricated component onto a structure;

4. Transferring a structural steel member onto a structure;

5. Placing a HVAC unit in its location of final use.

When materials are unloaded/unpacked from the cradle

There has also been debate and questions as to when the exemption concerning delivery and hoisting ends and an activity triggers the crane standard, which would mean that a certified operator would be required to perform the activity. The most common question we have seen is the following scenario:

An articulating crane is equipped with a fork or cradle assembly and with a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device, but is delivering dimensional lumber, drywall, or, other building materials (including materials on palettes) to a structure through an opening in the structure, such as a window or door. If the items were simply placed on the ground or directly onto the structure itself, the exemption would apply with these parameters, but what happens when an employee, either of the delivery company, the contractor, or a subcontractor, helps unload/unpack the materials from the boom, such as pulling dimensional lumber or drywall off of the cradle and placing it directly onto the structure.

Based on a June 23, 1016 OSHA Letter of Interpretation1 , because a worker has taken the step of unloading/unpacking the material, this activity does NOT fall under the exemption and would fall under the crane standard as it “facilitates the performance of a construction activity and are likely to be subjected to hazards typical to cranes and the roofs, upper decks, and balconies of the structures that are undergoing construction.”

Therefore, unless the delivery of the material can be done COMPLETELY without a worker, whether your employee or an employee of the contractor/subcontractor, physically unloading/unpacking the material once it is on the crane, the delivery requires the use of a certified operator to perform these activities

If there are any questions on this rule, please contact Jeff Keller, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs, at 518-880-6376 or


OSHA’s Crane Ruling and the Certification Debate

Those in the U.S. construction industry should be aware that November 10, 2018 has been set as OSHA’s final deadline for employers to have their crane operators in compliance with their certifications.

And yet, there has been massive uncertainty about what those certification requirements should look like because OSHA has still not set a ruling about them, despite this process beginning in 2010 with the publication of the final cranes and derricks rule. According to an article published in Safety & Health, two major hurdles have delayed this rule: “The first was that the standard required certification for both the type of crane and its capacity…[but] two of the four accredited testing services were issuing certifications for ‘type’ of crane rather than ‘type and capacity.’” The other problem was that “ ‘certification’ did not mean a crane operator was competent or experienced enough to control a machine safely.”

However, a determination on what valid certifications truly are would help employers ensure that their crane operators actually have them. Further delays will only make that process all that much harder, which is why groups like the Associated General Contractors and the Coalition for Crane Operator Safety have been pushing Congress so that OSHA will finally move forward with this ruling.

If you’d like to personally contact your federal representatives in Congress to talk them about your concerns about why OSHA has not yet moved forward, you can start here to find out how to reach them.