Archive for April, 2015

Certification vs. Qualification

Let’s talk about a subject that’s very near and dear to OSHA and anybody who employs crane operators. That is: The difference between certification and qualification.

This is a hot topic at Washington D.C as we speak. OSHA has held up the crane operator certification for as long as November 2017, in the hopes of sorting out a number of items. This one item in particular, certification and qualification, has got to be keeping them busy. You may be wondering why we need to have both certification and qualification for crane operators. Let me explain…

Crane_OperatorCertification is a process that typically would follow training. A crane operator needs to be trained and trained properly. And when properly trained, the crane operator should be able to pass a test certifying that they have had training in crane operation and crane safety.

But training alone doesn’t qualify a crane operator to operate a crane; much like going to school doesn’t qualify a doctor to become a brain surgeon. There’s a level of experience that has to be achieved. That’s where certification ends and where qualification begins.

 Now, qualification is the act of ensuring that by virtue of the crane operators ability to run the crane, and having learned how to run that specific crane, would turn a certified crane operator into a qualified crane operator.

 OSHA recognizes the value in words that express this very topic, exactly how that separation is going to be handled in the OSHA standards. Now there’s no doubt, if you look historically at, not just cranes, but any type of heavy machinery or any type of equipment, a person that’s going to operate that equipment needs two basic features to be qualified to run them. One is training, and there is no substitute for training. And the other is experience, and there’s no substitute for experience. An operator needs to be trained and experienced. There’s no doubt about it.

Looking at the industry the way that I do, from the accident going back, when we consult after an accident has happened and get to the root cause of the accident it typically falls under one of the following categories:

  • A trained operator can easily have an accident doing something they’re not familiar with, even though they have training.
  • And an experienced operator, without the training, is equally as prone to having an accident.

I know I’ve seen a lot of kickback from operators who believe that training is not adequate to make a crane operator, and they’re in fact right, even though they may not know why. I’ve seen trained but inexperienced operators get into trouble with a crane.

But experience alone doesn’t make a crane operator. I have seen many cases where a person has run a crane for more than 20 years, but never had the proper training. This is the same crane operator who gets into trouble and when the investigation is over. All because of improper training.

I’ve seen people who’ve been operating cranes for 25 years, 30 years who still don’t know how to read a load chart, for instance. That’s where training comes in. You don’t typically pick that up by your experience. And knowing how to read a load chart doesn’t make you a crane operator either. You still need experience enough to qualify you.  That’s really the focus of what I’m telling you today.

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Getting experience every day!

I applaud the organizations that have set out to offer certification for crane operators.  Their job is truly an interesting one at the very least. At the end of the day, these organizations have to prove that the person has the knowledge of cranes by virtue of a written test that typically follows a classroom. And then, the ability to control the load or run the crane by virtue of a practical test. I see the organizations have put all kinds of stipulations on the practical test, and they occasionally get questioned. But if you take a step back and take a look at why they do what they do, you’ll understand.

First off, the practical test is a timed test,  so a person that was just getting lucky running a crane, isn’t going to do it on this practical test, because they are going to have to do it in the allotted time. A person who’s experienced at running a crane will do it very easily.  We’ve proven that right within our own business.

Also, a person that struggles with understanding load charts, for instance, but has all kinds of experience running a crane, can be equally as dangerous as a person who has no experience running a crane. This person won’t pass a written test unless they truly know the material. Going forward, these two facets of the crane business, when they’re followed, are absolutely going to make the crane business a safer business.

I’ve handled dozens of accidents, including crane accidents, and I can assure you there’s no reason for an accident to ever happen.  I haven’t seen one yet that didn’t fall into one category or the other, mostly lack of training.

The safety business is very unique. It ensures, and I can see it happening, that everyone is going to go home safely at the end of the day. I hope this little editorial will help you. We’re hoping that everybody out there who hasn’t had any kind of formal training, that’s been running a crane, should in fact get it.

That is OSHA’s thrust with the meeting that just happened here a couple of weeks ago in Washington D.C.  They want to ensure that every operator has formal training. I believe that it would be a real booster shot for the industry, certainly making the whole industry safer. Till next time, have a safe day and I hope you fair well out in the real world.

Crane Carrying the Moon



This picture was taken at just the right moment.

crane sunset

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Information on the VPP

What is VPP?

The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

What Is the Authority for VPP?

The legislative underpinning for VPP is Section (2)(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which declares the Congress’s intent “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources – (1) by encouraging employers and employees in their efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at their places of employment, and to stimulate employers and employees to institute new and to perfect existing programs for providing safe and healthful working conditions.”

In practice, VPP sets performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health system, invites sites to apply, and then assesses applicants against these criteria. OSHA’s verification includes an application review and a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts.

OSHA approves qualified sites to one of three programs:

  • Star
  • Merit
  • Star Demonstration: Recognition for worksites that address unique safety and health issues.

Sites that make the grade must submit annual self-evaluations and undergo periodic onsite reevaluations to remain in the programs.

 When Did VPP Begin?

  • California began experimental program
  • OSHA formally announced the VPP and approved the first site.

1998 – Federal worksites became eligible for VPP.

How Does VPP Benefit Employers?

Fewer injuries and illnesses mean greater profits as workers’ compensation premiums and other costs plummet. Entire industries benefit as VPP sites evolve into models of excellence and influence practices industry-wide.


For more information on becoming a VPP member, contact OSHA’s Office of Partnerships and Recognition at (202) 693-2213 or the VPP Manager at your OSHA Regional Office.

Meeting of the Minds

Jay recently attended the Crane Institute Certification (CIC) Annual Meeting in Florida. The Governing and Advisory Boards meet once a year to discuss any changes, modifications, and updates tot he accredited crane operator program. It’s a lot of work, but they also know how to have a good time. The meetings consist of the brightest and most knowledge experts in the crane industry, truly a meeting of the minds.

Of course, all work and no play makes Jay a dull boss, so he took some breaks to work on his selfie skills while mingling with the best of the best.

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Jay poses outside in the Florida sun with CIC Admins Amanda Branton (left) and Jeanie Coleman (right).

jay ann cic cranes

Representing the North, Jay meets up with the always delightful Ann Campagnone, who works for Crane Institute of America in Sanford, Florida.

jay brian hope cic annual meeting 2015

A break in meetings allows Jay and Vice President of Crane U, Brian Hope, to pose for a picture.