Keeping Ontario's crane operators safe and compliant with the proper training
The safe operation of mobile and tower cranes in Ontario continues to be a major concern for the construction industry, its stakeholders, and the public.
In the past few years, there have been a number of serious incidents and close calls in crane operations. Some of these incidents occurred when cranes overturned, when the crane or its load came in contact with overhead live powerlines, or when the cranes or the material that they were lifting struck or crushed workers when the load was dropped on or swung into them.
Outdated and inadequate training can lead to incidents like those above. Without proper qualifications and training, workers may fail to properly inspect or use a crane, fail to test the overload protection devices for accuracy, inadequately assess the work area around the crane, work with unknown load weights, work with an incompetent crane signaller, etc.
Proper training, including refresher training, is a key component of reducing hazards and preventing incidents in crane operations. Despite the risks, however, some employers continue to push the envelope. Some of them de-rate cranes so that a less qualified operator may be used. Others provide only enough training to be compliant with the legislation instead of providing the kind of training that will be most effective for worker safety. It’s not enough just to get a Proof of Training certificate—operators must receive the proper training on the cranes they will be using and the hazards they will be facing.
Effective training for worker safety includes theory and practical training. Workers must also be tested on their knowledge to ensure that they understand the training. Theory training includes topics such as crane types and components, basic hydraulics, operators’ responsibilities, load charts and overload protection systems, and crane safety; practical training includes site-specific hazard analysis and how to control those hazards, pre-use crane inspection, installing manual boom extensions, load weight calculations, basic crane maintenance, and other practical crane operation topics.
Training requirements for crane operators under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario)
Under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), crane operations fall under the Construction Projects regulation (O. Reg. 213/91) for construction operations or section 3 of the Industrial Establishments regulation (O. Reg. 851) for industrial operations.
Specific crane operator qualifications are spelled out in section 150 of the Construction Projects regulation. It states that:
no worker shall operate a crane or similar hoisting device unless the worker holds a certificate of qualification issued under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009, that is not suspended, or the worker is an apprentice and is working pursuant to a training agreement registered under that Act, that is not suspended, in the trade of,
(a) hoisting engineer — mobile crane operator 1, if the worker is operating a crane1,2 or similar hoisting device capable of raising, lowering or moving any material that weighs more than 30,000 pounds;
(b) hoisting engineer — mobile crane operator 1 or hoisting engineer — mobile crane operator 2, if the worker is operating a crane1,2 or similar hoisting device capable of raising, lowering or moving only material that weighs more than 16,000 pounds but no more than 30,000 pounds; or
(c) hoisting engineer — tower crane operator, if the worker is operating a tower crane. O. Reg. 88/13, s. 1
In crane operations, a worker who operates a crane or similar hoisting device capable of moving material that weighs more than 16,000 pounds requires a Hoisting Engineer certification under the Trades Qualification & Apprenticeship Act. A worker who operates a crane or similar hoisting device capable of moving material that weighs less than 16,000 pounds requires written proof of training in the safe operation of the crane.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) has a voluntary 0-8 ton crane standard, P930030. Because it is voluntary, most training providers don’t align their curriculum to this standard, so it’s important to be aware that qualifications among crane operators can vary.
The Construction Project regulations define a “competent worker” as a person who is qualified because of knowledge, training, and experience to perform the work. A competent worker is required to be familiar with the OHSA and the regulations that apply to the work, and have knowledge of all the potential or actual danger to health and safety in the work.
A certified crane operator is considered a competent worker. As such, they are required to inspect all mechanically-powered vehicles, machines, tools, and equipment (i.e., cranes) rated at greater than 10 horsepower to determine whether they can handle their rated capacity and to identify any defects or hazardous conditions (O. Reg. 213/91, s.94(1).
In the OHSA, there are no specific requirements referenced for refresher training for crane operators. However, providing training only to be compliant with legislation instead of being effective for worker safety is not a way to reduce hazards and preventable incidents on the worksite.
In the OHSA section 25(2)(h), it states that the employer must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, and appropriate refresher training would be considered part of such a precaution. Best practice may be for employers to require refresher training every three years in order to keep workers’ knowledge and skills sharp and everyone on the worksite safe.
Otherwise, operator follow-up or retraining may be required when the following conditions occur:
• Training certificate is expired
• A different type of crane is used
• There is a modification or an update in the equipment operated
• Operators are observed operating a crane improperly
• An incident occurs during the crane use
• Employer’s H&S program stipulates retraining
• On-site contractor stipulates retraining
• MOL sends operator for retraining
Proper training, and refresher training as needed, is a key component of ensuring that operations on the worksite follow the best safety practices not only as required by Ontario law, but for the safety of everyone.
Anne Ramsay is a communications writer for the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) in Ontario. Peter Bervoets is a health and safety training consultant for IHSA that specializes in crane training and safety.
This article was submitted by Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA). IHSA can help businesses and crane operators in Ontario access the resources and training that are required under OHSA. Visit ihsa.ca/chcmcm to learn more about IHSA’s training and product offerings for cranes.
1 Crane capacity will determine qualifications of mobile crane operator 1 or 2 or hoisting engineer, not the weight of the lift being lifted.
2 Crane here is also not limited to just mobile cranes. The only crane exempted here is tower cranes, see 213/91 150.(2)(c)
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