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Crane operators of most equipment must be qualified or certified by a third party other than the operator's employer.

Qualification and Certification

CFR 29 1926.1427 contains new requirements designed to ensure that crane operators have the knowledge and skills they need to operate safely. After November 10, 2017, operators of most equipment covered by the standard must be qualified or certified by, or under the scrutiny of, a third party other than the operator's employer. An exception is provided for operators-in-training, who may operate equipment with certain limitations until they can become qualified or certified.

A few types of equipment are not covered by this requirement:

  • derricks
  • sideboom cranes
  • equipment with a rated hoisting/lifting capacity of 2,000 pounds or less

Getting Certified or Qualified

How long is certification and licensing valid for?

There are four qualification or certification options for crane operators.

A crane operator may become “certified” through the first option.

Option 1 - Certification after passing both a written and practical test administered by an accredited testing organization. Certification is valid for 5 years.

A crane operator may become “qualified” through the following three other options:

Option 2 - Qualification after passing a written and practical test by an audited employer program. Qualification is valid for 5 years.

Option 3 - Qualification by the U.S. Military (limited to employees of the Department of Defense or members of the Armed Forces). The qualification is valid for the period of time stipulated by the issuing authority.

Option 4 - Licensing by a government entity. If the crane operator is working in a jurisdiction that requires a state or local crane license and the licensing process meets the requirements of this standard, the operator must obtain such a license. Licensing is valid for the period of time stipulated by the licensing department/office, but no longer than 5 years.

A valid certification can only be issued by an "accredited crane operator testing organization."

Certification Validity

A valid certification can only be issued by an "accredited crane operator testing organization." To qualify for this title, the testing organization must be accredited by a "nationally recognized accrediting agency." During the rulemaking, OSHA identified two organizations qualified as "nationally recognized accrediting agencies:" the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These organizations have accredited several testing organizations, and their websites identify the organizations they have accredited. A testing organization's accreditation must be reviewed at least every three years.

A certification is valid for 5 years. After 5 years, it must be renewed to make sure that the operator's knowledge and skills are up-to-date.

An operator certified for a 100-ton hydraulic crane may operate a 50-ton hydraulic crane but not a 200-ton hydraulic crane.


An operator is qualified to operate a particular piece of equipment if the operator is certified for that type and capacity of equipment or for higher-capacity equipment of that type. For example, an operator certified for a 100-ton hydraulic crane may operate a 50-ton hydraulic crane but not a 200-ton hydraulic crane.

If no accredited testing agency offers certification examinations for a particular type and/or capacity of equipment, an operator is considered to be qualified to operate that equipment if the operator has been certified for the type/capacity that is most similar to that equipment and for which a certification examination is available.

The operator's certificate must state the type/capacity of equipment for which the operator is certified.

Leasing Cranes and Operator

An experienced operator may have the necessary knowledge and skills to take the certification exam without further training.

Employers leasing cranes and operators are responsible for ensuring that the operator is certified. The rule does not specify how you must do that. Personally examining the operator's certificate may be advisable. If there is any question as to whether the operator's certification is valid, you should contact the testing organization that issued the certification.

Hiring Crane Operators

When hiring crane operators certified for the equipment by an accredited testing organization, the operator’s certification is portable. However, as stated above, the certification is valid for only 5 years, after which it must be renewed. A qualification by an audited employer program or by the U.S. military, on the other hand, is not portable.

Certification Exams

The certification exam consists of both a written and a practical test.

The certification exam covers certain topics relevant to safe crane operation but does not require any particular type of training. An experienced operator may have the necessary knowledge and skills without further training.

The certification exam consists of both a written and a practical test. Among other topics, the written test covers the following:

  1. the controls and operational/performance characteristics of the equipment;
  2. use of, and the ability to calculate (manually or with a calculator), load/capacity information on a variety of configurations of the equipment;
  3. procedures for preventing and responding to power line contact; and
  4. the ground conditions needed to support the equipment and load.

The practical test is conducted with the operator at the controls of the equipment. It requires the operator to demonstrate, among other things, operational and maneuvering skills, the ability to apply load chart information, and the ability to safely shut down and secure the equipment.

The examination may be administered in any language the operator candidate understands. It may be administered verbally as long as the operator can demonstrate that he/she is literate in the language of the exam and demonstrates the ability to use the type of written manufacturer procedures applicable to the class/type of equipment for which the candidate is seeking certification. The operator's certificate must note the language in which the exam was given, and the employee may only operate a crane that is furnished with materials required by the standard that are written in the language of the certification.

Hands-on Training for the Operator

hands-on training
The operator's trainer and the operator-in-training must be in direct line of sight of each other.

The operator-in-training may operate a crane during training as long as the conditions below are satisfied.

  • The employer must provide each operator-in-training with sufficient training prior to operating the equipment. This will enable the operator-in-training to operate the equipment safely.
  • The tasks performed by the operator-in-training while operating the equipment must be within the operator-in-training's ability.
  • While operating the equipment, the operator-in-training must be continuously monitored by an individual ("operator's trainer") who meets all of the following requirements:
    • The operator's trainer is an employee or agent of the operator-in-training's employer.
    • The operator's trainer is either a certified operator under Section 1427 or has passed the written portion of a certification test and is familiar with the proper use of the equipment's controls.
    • While monitoring the operator-in-training, the operator's trainer performs no tasks that detract from the trainer's ability to monitor the operator-in-training.
    • For equipment other than tower cranes, the operator's trainer and the operator-in-training must be in direct line of sight of each other. In addition, they must communicate verbally or by hand signals. For tower cranes, the operator's trainer and the operator-in-training must be in direct communication with each other.
hands-on training
The operator-in-training cannot operate a crane if the crane is used to hoist personnel.
  • The operator-in-training must be monitored by the operator's trainer at all times, except for short breaks where all of the following are met:
    • The break lasts no longer than 15 minutes and there is no more than one break per hour.
    • Immediately prior to the break the operator's trainer informs the operator-in-training of the specific tasks that the operator-in-training is to perform and limitations to which he/she must adhere during the operator trainer's break.
    • The specific tasks that the operator-in-training will perform during the operator trainer's break are within the operator-in-training's abilities.
  • The operator-in-training must not operate the equipment in any of the following circumstances are present:
    • if any part of the equipment, load line, or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), if operated up to the equipment's maximum working radius in the work zone, could get within 20 feet of a power line that is up to 350 kV, or within 50 feet of a power line that is more than 350 kV
    • if the equipment is used to hoist personnel
    • in multiple-equipment lifts
    • if the equipment is used over a shaft, cofferdam, or in a tank farm
    • in multiple-lift rigging operations, except where the operator's trainer determines that the operator-in-training's skills are sufficient for this high-skill work

Signal Person Qualifications

signal person
A signal person must meet the qualification requirements.

Each signal person must:

  • know and understand the type of signals used (If hand signals are used, the signal person must know and understand the Standard Method for hand signals);
  • be competent in the application of the type of signals used;
  • have a basic understanding of equipment operation and limitations, including the crane dynamics involved in swinging and stopping loads and boom deflection from hoisting loads;
  • know and understand the relevant requirements of the sections of the standard dealing with signals; and
  • demonstrate he/she meets these requirements through an oral or written test, and through a practical test.

The employer of the signal person must ensure that the signal person meets these qualification requirements through one of the following qualification options:

Option (1) – Qualified third party evaluator. The signal person has documentation from a qualified third party evaluator (see section 1401 for definition of "Qualified Evaluator (third party)") showing that the signal person meets the qualification requirements.

Option (2) – Employer's qualified evaluator. The employer's qualified evaluator (see section 1401 for definition of "Qualified Evaluator (not a third party)") and determines that the individual meets the qualification requirements.

The employer must make the documentation for whichever option is used available at the site while the signal person is employed by the employer. Such documentation is considered "available" when it is physically present on the site or retrievable via an on-site computer. The documentation must specify each type of signaling (e.g., hand signals, radio signals, etc.) for which the signal person meets the requirements of paragraph (c) of section 1926.1428.

If subsequent actions by the signal person indicate that the individual does not meet the qualification requirements, the employer must not allow the individual to continue working as a signal person until retraining is provided and a reassessment is made under one of the two options that confirms the individual meets the qualification requirements.

Qualifications of Maintenance & Repair Employees

signal person
If maintenance and repair employees aren’t qualified, improper maintenance can lead to equipment failure.

Improper crane maintenance and repair can lead to dangerous equipment failure. To ensure that maintenance and repair employees are qualified to perform their assigned tasks, Section 1429 requires maintenance and repair personnel to meet the definition of a qualified person with respect to the equipment and maintenance/repair tasks they perform. The definition of "qualified person" is found in section 1401.

Some maintenance and repair tasks may require the maintenance and repair personnel to operate the equipment to diagnose a problem or check its operation. Such personnel need not be qualified or certified under section 1427 to operate the equipment as long as:

  • the operation is limited to those functions necessary to perform maintenance, inspect the equipment, or verify its performance; and
  • the personnel either:
    • operate the equipment under the direct supervision of an operator who meets the qualification/certification requirements of section 1427; or
    • are familiar with the operation, limitations, characteristics, and hazards associated with the type of equipment.


signal person
The training requirements of the standard exist to help ensure your employees can go home at the end of the day. Training is essential.

Other sections of this standard require training in specific topics. Below is a list of the training requirements found in other sections and includes additional training requirements not found elsewhere.

Training Requirements Specified Elsewhere
  • overhead powerlines (Sections 1408(g) and 1410(m))
  • signal persons (Section 1428(c))
  • operators (See section 1427 for the training required for operators during the four-year transitional period for operator qualification/certification, for operators of equipment that does not require qualification/certification, and for operators-in-training).
Additional Training Requirements

Operators – You must train each equipment operator in the manufacturer's emergency procedures for halting unintended equipment movement and in the following practice: whenever moving a boom off a support, first raise the boom a short distance (sufficient to take the load of the boom) to determine if the boom hoist brake needs to be adjusted or repaired.

Competent persons and qualified persons – You must train each competent person and each qualified person in the requirements of this standard that apply to them.

Crush/pinch points – You must train each employee who works with the equipment to keep clear of holes, crush/pinch points, and the hazards addressed in section 1424 (Work area control).

Tag-out – You must train each operator and each additional employee authorized to start/energize equipment or operate equipment controls (such as maintenance and repair employees) in the tag-out and start-up procedures in sections 1417 (f) and (g).

Training Administration

For each employee who must be trained under this standard, you must:

  • Evaluate each employee to confirm that the employee understands the information provided in the training.
  • Provide refresher training in relevant topics for each employee when, based on the conduct of the employee or an evaluation of the employee's knowledge, there is an indication that retraining is necessary.
  • Provide the training at no cost to the employee.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

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1. A crane operator's certification is valid for no longer than _____ years.

2. Must a candidate for crane operator certification take a training course before taking the exam?

3. If hand signals are used, the signal person must know and understand the _____ hand signals.

4. Each signal person must meet which of the following qualification requirements?

5. Each employee who works with the equipment must be trained to keep clear of _____.

Have a great day!

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