Certification is the final link in a process established to educate people in the correct way to perform their assigned job duties. Well-trained employees, with independently verified knowledge and skills, make fewer mistakes—and therefore have fewer accidents—than those with less experience or inferior knowledge.
The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) currently offers an industry-leading range of personnel certifications that address crane and crane-related operations. The organization’s 29 certification designations across 12 categories provide the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of personnel certifications available. Accredited by ANSI to the international standard ISO 17024, they are officially recognized by federal OSHA as meeting or exceeding ANSI/ASME requirements and are endorsed by all leading insurance providers and industry membership associations.
Most CCO certification programs are accredited by ANSI to the ISO/IEC 17024 International Standard for organizations that certify personnel. ANSI requirements are rigorous and designed to give assurance to those who depend on certification programs that the tests are fair, sound, and valid assessments of the knowledge and skills they are intended to measure. The decision of ANSI’s Professional Certification Accreditation Committee to award accreditation came only after exhaustive on-site and field audits of NCCCO’s management systems and psychometric procedures.
Regardless of whether certification is required or not, all accredited certification programs have a periodic recertification requirement to maintain the credential. NCCCO certificants must recertify every five years. Technology is ever-changing, equipment and associated techniques evolve, and industry standards and regulations change. Recertification ensures that the certificant has stayed current with the latest technologies, standards, and regulations. And the recertification requirement motivates certificants to stay sharp, improve their skills, and not get complacent. After all, any credential that is worth having is worth keeping!
New program development
Development efforts have begun for two new certification programs—for operators of telehandlers and for operators of concrete pumps. The 26 industry experts that make up the Telehandler Operator task force and the 25 industry experts who make up the Concrete Pump Operator task force include both experienced NCCCO contributors and new experts with more specialized knowledge, including those from unions, rental firms, training companies, construction contractors, safety consultants, insurance, and regulatory authorities. Multiple meetings have already been held virtually via videoconferencing, with a view to complete program development for the Concrete Pump Operators certification by the end of 2021 and the Telehandlers Operator certification sometime in 2022.
As with all NCCCO programs, the two task forces will initiate the development process by performing a job analysis to help the subject matter experts define the knowledge and skills needed for individuals to competently perform their duties in using these types of equipment. The information compiled will be used to define the target content for CCO certification exams, both written and practical. A representative sample of practitioners will then be surveyed to identify which of the tasks, knowledge, and skills are most important for a certified individual to know and be able to perform. The survey data will be used to determine what knowledge and skills to test for on certification assessments, and how much weight is to be applied to each content area, creating a “test blueprint” that will guide the task force members and NCCCO staff in creating the certification tests.
NCCCO certification programs
Mobile Crane Operator Course*
NCCCO offers four categories of mobile crane operator certification. In addition to the core written exam, candidates are required to take one or more specialty examinations covering specific types of mobile cranes: lattice boom truck cranes (LBT), lattice boom crawler cranes (LBC), telescopic boom cranes—swing cab (TLL), and/or telescopic boom cranes—fixed cab (TSS). The mobile crane operator practical examinations test real-world skills such as hoisting, booming, swinging, following hand signals, and combined function operations. Two additional designations, subcategories of the TSS certification, have been created for service truck cranes (STC) and boom trucks (BTF). Learn more about these NCCCO Mobile Crane Operator Courses here .
Tower Crane Operator Course*
Candidates must pass both written and practical exams to be CCO-certified tower crane operators (TWR). Candidates may take the practical exam on one of three types of tower cranes—hammerhead, luffing jib, or self-erecting—and must demonstrate skills such as trolley travel, hoisting, swinging, and combined function operations.
Overhead Crane Operator Course*
Candidates must pass both written and practical exams to become CCO-certified overhead crane operators (OVR). The overhead crane practical exam can be taken on either a cab-operated crane or a pendant/remote control-operated crane and tests skills including trolley travel, hoisting, bridge travel, and combined-function operations. The NCCCO Overhead Crane Operator Written Exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. Candidates have 60 minutes to complete it.
Articulating Crane Operator Course*
This NCCCO program addresses the specific knowledge and skills required to operate articulating boom cranes and articulating boom loaders. Three designations are available: articulating boom crane operator (ABC), articulating boom crane with winch operator (ABW), and articulating boom loader operator (ABL). Candidates choose among three written exams and two practical exams. The practical exam requires the operator to pick and place a test weight as directed, as well as move the crane through a zigzag corridor. For more information go to www.nccco.org/aco.
Digger Derrick Operator Course*
Digger derricks are unique pieces of equipment with their own capabilities and risks and, as such, a CCO certification program (DDO) addresses their specific characteristics. Candidates must pass both written and practical exams to be certified. The seven tasks that make up the practical examination are: pre-operational inspection, place chain in circle, follow hand signals, negotiate corridor with test weight, auger a hole, pick up a pole, and stow boom and shutdown procedures. For more information go to www.nccco.org/ddo.
Dedicated Pile Driver Operator Course*
The Dedicated Pile Driver Operator (DPD) certification program addresses the unique characteristics and operations of dedicated and purpose-built pile drivers. Candidates are required to pass both a written exam and a practical exam to obtain certification. The practical exam tasks include the lifting, maneuvering and setting down of a pile, as well as the demonstration of the actions and equipment settings necessary to begin the driving of a pile. For more information go to www.nccco.org/dpd.
Drill Rig Operator Course
The Drill Rig Operator (DRO) certification program, launched in 2018 in conjunction with ADSC—The International Association of Foundation Drilling, consists of separate certifications for operators of foundation drill digs (FDR) and for anchor/micropile drill rigs (AMP). As with other CCO operator certifications, candidates are required to pass both a written exam and a practical exam to obtain either certification. Practical exam tasks include pre-operational inspection, safety protocols, pipe pick-up and placement, pipe laydown, drill steel placement, drilling holes, and safe travel. For more information go to www.nccco.org/dro.
Three certification levels are available for riggers. Rigger Level I (RIG-I) certification indicates that certified personnel are considered qualified for most rigging work, while Rigger Level II (RIG-II) certification shows that they can rig non-routine jobs that require independent thinking without supervision. In addition to the multiple-choice written exams, candidates must also pass practical exams covering tasks such as pre-use rigging inspection, rigging hitches, rigging connections, and basic knots.
In addition to being able to give accurate visible and audible signals, CCO-certified signalpersons (SGP) are required to have basic knowledge of crane operations and limitations, understand specific considerations concerning the construction site, and know applicable safety standards and regulations. CCO certification tests consist of a multiple-choice written exam and a computer-based practical exam. Signals for both mobile and tower cranes are tested.
Crane Inspector Course
The CCO Crane Inspector certification program is designed to bring the same safety, insurance, and risk reduction benefits common to other NCCCO certification programs. Through separate specialty exams, candidates may be certified to inspect mobile (MCI), tower (TCI), and/or overhead (OCI) cranes to ensure they are properly maintained and safe for use. The practical exam uses high-resolution photographs to test candidates’ inspection knowledge. Candidates must attest to and provide documentation of a minimum of five years’ crane-related experience. For more information go to www.nccco.org/ci.
Washington State Crane Certifier Course
Washington’s Crane Certifier Program was developed by NCCCO under an agreement with the state’s Department of Labor and Industries. Candidates must be able to demonstrate at least five years of crane-related experience, of which two years must be actual crane inspection activities. Accreditation as a crane certifier is available in one or more of the following crane categories: Mobile Cranes, Tower Cranes, Articulating Cranes, and/or Overhead Cranes. For more information go to www.nccco.org/wcc.
Lift Director Course**
The CCO Lift Director certification is for those who have responsibilities for lift planning and supervision. Exams cover all disciplines required for safe planning and execution of simple and complex single- and multi-crane lifts. Separate certifications are available for mobile crane lift directors (MLD) and tower crane lift directors (TLD). The lift scenario questions found on the lift director specialty exams evaluate a candidate’s ability to comprehend the information presented and apply knowledge of lift planning and directing in circumstances that may be found in real-life situations. For more information go to www.nccco.org/ld.
NCCCO certifications, regardless of state or federal requirements, have been documented as increasing safety and saving lives. Many of the certifications offered by NCCCO are required by federal OSHA (see asterisk *) under the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard (1926 Subpart CC). However, although the OSHA Rule does not require certifications for the others, it does require qualification (marked with a double asterisk **), including demonstrating knowledge and skill. Most employers find the easiest way to have an employee demonstrate knowledge and skill is to rely, in part, on certification. Utilizing accredited CCO certification in order to help document qualification shows that the process has been unbiased, it’s defensible, and reliable.