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Lineman safety: Training crucial to safety say operators at Northeast Regional Crane Operator and Rigger Skills Competition

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Construction equipment: Regional hosts, Cranes 101 and Wood’s CRW, welcomed 10 crane operators and their families on Oct. 25, 2014 for CIC’s Northeast Crane Operator & Rigger Skills Competition. The event was held at the North Oxford, Mass., equipment yard of Wood’s CRW, which provided two cranes -- a Link Belt RTC-8065 rough-terrain crane and National 14127A boom truck. Wood’s CRW rents and sells heavy equipment from four locations in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

Tyler Mayo of BGM Inc., Hardwick, Vt., and Craig Tanguay of Summit Crane Co., Bristol, Conn., delivered the best scores among their peers, who represented crane rental, steel erectors, industrial contractors, general contractors, and tree service companies. They will advance to a Championship round to be held in late 2015 where they will have a chance to win a $10,000 Grand Prize.

Crane Institute Certification (CIC) is an independent certifying organization providing OSHA recognized, NCCA and ANSI accredited certifications for mobile crane operators according to type and capacity, as well as rigger and signalperson certifications. It facilitates the Crane Operator & Rigger Skills Competition at regional events around the United States in order to underscore the need for safe crane operation.

Asked about issues facing crane operation today, Thomas Baxter of Turner Brothers, a concrete contractor in Raynham, Mass., is concerned that many operators lack proper training. “Massachusetts only requires a written exam with no practical testing” in order to be become licensed in the state, he said. “Obtaining certification or licenses should not be the end-all/be-all of training for an operator,” he said.

“This very issue has been at the center of OSHA’s recent delay of a federal requirement for operators to be certified,” said Jim Headley, CEO of Crane Institute Certification, Villa Rica, Ga. On Sept. 26, 2014, OSHA officially extended the deadline for the requirement for crane operators to be certified by three years, until November 10, 2017. “However, OSHA emphasized that the employers’ duty to ensure that crane operators are competent remains intact during the extension period, and is expected to be retained in the final rule,” said Headley.

“No state license should be assumed to be adequate for safe crane operation,” said Jay Sturm, President of Cranes 101, Bellingham, Mass. He explained that many state licensing programs pre-date OSHA’s Subpart CC and that it is a misconception that a state license alone is sufficient to meet OSHA’s current requirements for training. The crane operator and rigger training provider has two goals: “First is to get operators properly trained in order to increase safety, and second, to reduce liability for employers,” said Sturm.

Tanguay, who placed second, has operated cranes for more than 30 years, first in steel erection and now in crane rental. He credits that first employer for taking a chance on him and giving him opportunities to learn the trade, but acknowledges that things are much different now. “Today’s cranes have computers and other operational aids that make it easier to operate,” but that doesn’t take the place of training and on-the-job experience, he said.

“In general, the employers’ point of view is that training is expensive. Time is money,” he said. But when you make a mistake with a crane because you haven’t been properly trained, that is even more expensive. “A ruined hoist cable might cost $5000 to replace,” he said. Not to mention the financial and human costs associated with accidents.

Accuracy first

Operators completed three challenges, designed by CIC, which test accuracy, control, and depth perception. This accounts for 80% of the final score. The other 20% comes from a rigging exercise provided by Columbus McKinnon, Amherst, N.Y. The exercise tests the operator’s knowledge of correct rigging practices and ability to identify deficiencies in equipment that they might encounter on the job site.

Mayo, a quiet man with a steady hand as an operator, has an advantage moving forward, as this is the second time he has qualified for a Championship. He finished 10th out of 19 operators at the 2013-2014 Championship held at ConExpo-Con/Agg in March 2014. Mayo has been running cranes for about 10 years for his family’s residential construction business, where he works as a welder, operator, and occasional foreman.

Tanguay has operated nearly every type and capacity of crane from ancient friction rigs to modern 150-ton Demag ATs to versatile 300-ton Manitowoc crawlers. His ability to quickly familiarize himself with a particular make and model under the pressure of competition will serve him well.

Commenting on his background in steel erection, Tanguay said: “There are a certain number of pieces that have to be erected per day. Ironworkers have to be able to trust you. That takes communication and skill,” he said. “Accuracy is speed. If you are in control of the load the whole time then your work becomes more efficient. You don’t have to go fast to do the work quickly,” he advised.

While reducing risk in crane operations is serious business, the Northeast Regional Skills Competition was filled with family-oriented fun. Many of the operators were joined by spouses and children. “We had very good contenders and the competition was tight,” said Sturm. Cranes 101 and Wood’s CRW will hold another Northeast Regional event June 6, 2015 in Carlisle, Pa.

About Crane Institute Certification
Crane Institute Certification (CIC), Villa Rica, Ga., is an independent certifying organization providing OSHA recognized, NCCA and ANSI accredited certifications for mobile crane operators according to type and capacity, as well as rigger and signalperson certifications. Other programs include certifications for operators of service/mechanics trucks, articulating boom cranes, and digger derricks. CIC serves construction, utility and power generation, underground construction, manufacturing, and heavy industry.

The CIC Crane Operator & Rigger Skills Competition is designed to underscore the need for safe crane operation. The only crane operator competition of this scale in North America, the event provides a venue for the best crane operators to demonstrate the precision required for safe crane operation. Additionally, it introduces young people to crane operation as a profession and educates local governments and businesses about the role training, certification, and experience play in safe crane operation. In 2014-2015, CIC will partner with at least regional hosts and sponsors across the United States. Finalists from regional qualifying events advance to a Championship to be held in late 2015, where the Grand Prize is $10,000.

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