Crane Industry Services company news

Crane Industry Services Announces Simple Crane Operator Documentation Process for Employers

Example of a Skills Evaluation report produced for the QCOE. Exercises, written tests and practical exams are used to evaluate the qualification of a crane operator. CIS tracks the individuals and maintains records with recommendations for the organizations to improve ability and safety.

While employers have until November 2018 to make sure crane operators are certified, they currently have a duty to ensure crane operators are competent. (See current language presented in the OSHA Regulation update.)

To assist employers in evaluating and documenting crane operator competency, Crane Industry Services, LLC introduces a new and efficient process called Qualified Crane Operator Evaluations™ (QCOE). The process gives employers valuable insights not available in certification testing by identifying specific operator strengths and skills that need to be improved.

Competency is defined as one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. When it comes to crane operation that may entail familiarity with the type and configuration of the crane, hand signals, rigging, and ground conditions, among other factors.

The QCOE process graphs areas where knowledge and skill are strongest and where the operator and supervisors would benefit from more training or experience that the employer can provide or can be obtained through a reliable source. Employers receive recommendations for improved performance and documentation for current compliance requirements. The process lowers costs and hassles associated with certification testing.

Crane Industry Services travels to the crane and operator’s location to conduct tests and documents each operator’s qualifications. “Excuses don’t work when an employer is behind on a job schedule or over budget due to skill levels that are lower than needed to complete timely, quality, safe work. QCOE also helps employers fulfill the ‘employer duty’ to provide documentation to OSHA regarding qualification of operators, but the main benefit is safer, higher quality work,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS.

Sample results tracking an individual’s record from novice to qualified crane operator. CIS has developed more than 200 exercises, many of which can be performed on a simulator, for demonstrating skills related to crane and lifting equipment operation.

CIS is WBE certified and NCCER accredited to train and provide OSHA recognized, ANSI accredited crane operator certification testing.

Overcoming Barriers to Strategic Skills Development

Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS, addresses the importance for employers to continually develop people with the right skills for the job in an article for the October 2017 issue of Incident Prevention magazine. “Crane operation and rigging skills development presents greater challenges than some other areas,” she says.

Fostering crane and rigging skills across all departments

The utility industry has high expectations for employing safe work practices, and readily invests in equipment and training. Yet, there is one area where these organizations continue to lack employees with the right skills—crane operation and rigging. It’s not uncommon among utilities for individuals with crane operator certification to have less than 100 hours of actual operating time in a year. OSHA requires employers to ensure that crane operators are trained and competent; 100 hours or less is not sufficient to maintain crane operator skills. In emergency situations, utilities need crews who do not routinely operate cranes to serve as operators. A strategic approach to developing crane and rigging skills across business units could narrow or close the skills gap.

However, utilities, like all large and complex organizations, battle the 5 Cs: complex corporate culture causing complications. Different groups within the utility may, out of necessity, operate as silos, with little shared knowledge or resources. Construction groups usually have the most skilled crane operators and riggers, and readily invest in training these people, but crane and rigging experts are needed on T&D and Emergency Response crews as well.

Utility workers, especially those serving on emergency response teams, must wear several hats—meaning a single individual may need to be qualified for very different types of work, such as lineman, rigger or equipment operator. Having multi-skilled and trained personnel creates a more nimble and responsive workforce. Yet, the reality of maintaining skill levels in several trades, may also require staff and budget that is in opposition to the complex, corporate culture that thrives on efficiencies.

Management appreciates that it’s less expensive to have one person on a crew with qualified crane and rigging skills, instead of the whole crew. But in a widespread power outage, time is money. The fewer skills crew members have, the less productive they might be. In an emergency response situation, that may mean the difference in getting power restored later rather than sooner.

Organizations should ask: What is the best strategy for their needs? It might be developing a single individual with abilities to perform varying levels of tasks or having a dedicated crew of crane operators and riggers. Either option could work depending on safety, budget and timeline requirements.

Read the full article on page 37 of the October 2017 issue of Incident Prevention.

OSHA Intends to Delay Crane Operator Certification Again

In May, OSHA announced its intention to extend the November 10, 2017 compliance date for crane operator certification. The proposal was presented on June 20 to the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. Although nothing official has been issued, OSHA is expected to issue a formal extension of the enforcement date by one year to November 2018.

The latest proposed delay comes more than six years after the crane rule was issued in 2010. Among the issues which need to be resolved are whether testing operators should be done by type of crane as well as by capacity. Many in the industry think testing by capacity is onerous. The other issue is whether certification is equivalent to qualification. Many employers argue that certification is a baseline and that other factors must be evaluated to determine if an operator is qualified for a specific lifting scenario.

According to Bloomberg BNA, “The 12-month delay would give the agency time to complete work on an updated rule (RIN:1218-AC96) and determine how the rulemaking would fit into the Trump administration mandate limiting new regulations.”

Many in the industry speculate that existing language will be substantially changed to remove the requirement for certification by crane capacity and to better define the role of certification in determining whether or not an operator meets OSHA’s definition of qualified.

“CIS supports national crane operator certification regulations, but we are hopeful that OSHA will modify current language. Certification should be required but acknowledged as a learner’s permit. Meanwhile, qualification should be documented by employers demonstrating an operator’s skill by type of crane, not by make and model of crane. Finally, qualification of operators should be re-evaluated and documented annually,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of Crane Industry Services, LLC.

Despite the likely one-year delay, reports, “Employers remain responsible for ensuring that these operators are properly trained on the equipment assigned to them. We suggest that companies do internal compliance or policy reviews periodically to ensure that their policies comply with the latest, changing standards.


ACCSH FAQ for the May 20 meeting regarding the compliance date extension.

Federal Register Notice June 6, 2017 of the ACCSH June 20 meeting.

Using simulator technology to teach rookies and retrain experienced crane operators

Q&A on the Real Value of Simulator Training

Training and instructional technologies professionals from Crane Industry Services, LLC (CIS) and CM Labs Simulations recently discussed the benefits of using simulators to train crane operators. Becky Schultz, editor of Equipment Today interviewed Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS, and Drew Carruthers, Construction Product Manager for CM Labs. Access the archived webinar here.

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants asked questions about the real-world transferrable skills to be gained through simulation training, as well as current trends in the technology. In the coming months, an ongoing study to determine the value of simulators, which is being conducted by CIS and CM Labs, in partnership with West Georgia Technical College, will reveal additional insight.


Debbie Dickinson


Drew Carruthers

Transferrable Skills

Q: Are the skills learned on a simulator transferrable to a real crane? 

Carruthers: Absolutely. When you are sitting in a simulator that behaves like the real thing — down to that “seat of the pants” feel — in combination with realistic training scenarios, you are learning how the equipment responds to your judgement and awareness. This is critical for learning how to operate safely and efficiently.

Q: Is there an opportunity to customize the simulations to specific scenarios relevant to the organization? 

Dickinson: Yes, CM Labs customizes the simulator programs and challenges presented to operators.  If needed, CIS can provide customization input based on employee qualification levels and scope of work. For example, in an electrical substation scenario, a portion of the environment is designated as “live.” If an operator maneuvers the load too close to the “live” area, the instructor may give the operator’s seat a jolt or cause a warning to flash on the screen.

In steel erection applications, customization might include multiple environmental factors, such as vehicle and pedestrian traffic and minimal work space between buildings. To quote Derrick Moore, Georgia Tech football staff, “Anyone can make a touchdown in a wide open field.”  Simulations provide operators opportunities to experience unique work site challenges and learn how to respond without risking personnel, crew, or public safety.

In addition, instructor can inserts unexpected changes during a normal, non-customized simulation to allow us to evaluate how the operator reacted to the unexpected.

Q: How can you teach someone the communication skills required in a simulated setting, such as using radio or hand signals?

Dickinson: An operator using a simulator is expected to react to signals given as part of the safe load movement. For example, the operator may be required to operate in the blind, following only the hand or voice signals given by the rigging crew. The operator’s speed to the complete task, as well as accuracy in controlling the load, when working at the direction of the crew, is recorded by the simulator.

Q: Has the industry done any research on the occurrence of negative transfer for some situations?

Dickinson: Some operators may view simulation training as a high-end video game rather than the serious training exercises that Vortex simulations provide. As the Federal Aviation Administration has done, industries utilizing simulation training need to set standards for the time and achievement level outcomes expected to measure the value. Findings from the research in progress will help set those standards.

In other industries, simulators have been shown to provide objective and consistent learning methodologies with proven results, including faster time to competency, skilled and safe operators, and more effective assessment. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and in fact, can be used as refresher for experienced operators to identify and correct bad habits.

Technology Trends

Q: On what types of construction equipment is simulator training available?

Dickinson: The simulators being used in the research include exercises on Excavators, Mobile Cranes, and Tower Cranes.

Q: Is it possible to train multiple individuals as a team with simulators?

Carruthers: Yes. Networked simulation is what powers Vortex Simulator team training and instructor stations. Some of our most popular training scenarios include full team training, with signaler/rigger stations, or tandem lifts. Other clients of ours are also using the sim so the whole crew can experience the lift virtually, from the operator seat. They say this ensures that everyone is on the same page about what needs to happen and when.

Q: There seems to be a contradiction between “the higher the fidelity the better,” and the statement that “bigger is not necessarily better” – i.e. that one should not fall in love with technology. How do you establish a minimum acceptable level of fidelity? 

Carruthers: The “love” of technology should be grounded in value. In addition to great graphics, Vortex simulators simulate machine operation from the set-up of the operator’s chair, controls and visual perspectives. Technology has to look, feel and closely replicate machine experiences to be worthwhile.

Q: Is today’s technology sufficient to run a physically accurate simulation without large/expensive specialized hardware? 

Carruthers: Great question! Our goal is to create a simulator that engages the operator in the training experience. It has to look real and feel real, otherwise the operator is simply learning skills and responses that will need to be unlearned at the worst possible moment — on the job site!

That’s why our question is always: Is the trainee learning skills that will be transferable and useful on the worksite? If yes, we’re doing a good job. If not, it can be a detriment to productive training.

Some simulators highlight game technology. CM Labs does not.  Vortex simulations use an engineering-grade simulation engine — the same one used by equipment OEMs — to simulate the machine, soil and load dynamics. Fidelity of the simulation is critical to learning real skills and not just how the controls work. Fidelity also comes from the learning exercises themselves. In Vortex simulators the training exercises progress from introductory to real and challenging worksite situations — along with machine faults, bad weather and worksite hazards. It helps prepare you for the whole job, not just pulling levers!

Q: What sorts of replay capabilities are typical, and how quickly can variables be played back? Is it common to play back the results of a simulation to the operator, as a training technique?

Carruthers: We believe strongly in the whole learning methodology of Plan, Do, Review. Simulators can support this methodology very effectively. Before using the simulator you can PLAN the operation, then using simulators DO the operation and finally, with the crew you can play-back and REVIEW the simulation exercise. That last step is critical to learning and something that is hard to do with the real machines. Pilots and soldiers have been trained using these techniques for decades. It works and is efficient.

Q: Is the simulation training available worldwide and does it count towards operator hours? 

Dickinson: Yes, simulation technology is available worldwide. Different government agencies require different amounts and levels of training for certification or licenses. In some jurisdictions, training hours count toward operator hours. The study’s results will determine the validity of simulator training.

How Re-Work Impacts Safety

Slaughter_JD_IMG_2608 s

J.D. Slaughter, S&B Engineers and Constructors

Is Re-work painful? Yes, according to J. D. Slaughter P.E., Vice President at S & B Engineers and Constructors Ltd., who spoke at the February 2016 Program Meeting held by the Southeastern Construction Owners & Associates Roundtable (SCOAR). Slaughter referenced a study his company conducted several years ago where they found that 72% of their workplace injury incidents occurred during unplanned work or rework. S&B Engineers and Constructors used that data to shield workers from the inevitable variability that occurs on projects.

In the context of crane and rigging operations, Cliff Dickinson, President of Crane Industry Services LLC, says, “When rigging there are many ways to connect a load. The only right way is when the rigging has the load secure and there is no possibility of the load slipping out of the rigging. When training crane operators, we emphasize that operators have responsibility to lift only after they are certain. No operator should lift a load wondering if it will work. Crane operators carry a significant share of the responsibility for lift safety.”

Slaughter held the SCOAR safety committee’s attention as he explained, “When crews have work that they have to ‘touch again’ due to rework or unexpected work, injuries are more likely to occur. The engineering and safety plans are not as fresh but work proceeds.” Slaughter recommends “shielding crews from variability” to maintain safe job sites.

Having led numerous projects for skilled craftsman, Dickinson suggests the following ways to safeguard crews.

Verifying and refreshing communication. When rework is required, it should be a standing safety policy to restate the work plans and responsibilities in the same detail as if the work had not been previously discussed or performed. This reduces the chance for there to have been gaps in communication and helps to identify if new procedures need to be added to the work process.

Practicing problems. Many companies hold safety briefings, but physically going through the motions (practicing) the response to a simulated problem may reveal gaps in the plan or the level of understanding or ability of the crew. This is why lifeguards practice CPR techniques on dummies.

Review and recite the safety and work plans. If the plans are too complex for the skilled workers who are responsible for delivering the work, then the plan is not actionable. Have a clear, job-relevant, single page plan that every responsible person can restate and demonstrate. This might include providing pictures or graphics to communicate “if this happens, then we . . .”

Hiding the clock. Set expectations for time of completion before work begins. Adding pressure to complete, when skill and precision are essential to the work, detracts from craftsmanship. Putting the focus on the clock, jeopardizes safety and quality.

Be certain and confident. Finally, here’s some more sage advice from Slaughter: “Great project safety is allowed to occur when projects have certainty.” Be certain all aspects of the lift and work plan are clear and the crew can execute with confidence.


Crane & Rigging Managers have personal—and legal—responsibility to qualify

A recent article titled, “Is OSHA going to put you in jail?”, written by Howard Mavity of Fisher & Philips LLP, raises interesting points as it relates to the current compliance climate. While Mavity admits that criminal provisions under OSHA are weak, he is seeing a trend whereby prosecution may be sought against employers under other Federal and State laws for OSHA violations. Read more