• wpengine
  • June 2, 2020


I’m Ron Wittmeyer. Today, we’re going to talk about crane operators on construction sites and what it takes to become a crane operator. I’m particularly interested in construction cranes and crane operators right now because we’re representing an iron worker who suffered a serious injury. He was on a job site when a crane released a 70-foot steel girder that injured him.

Education and skills requirements

What are the education and skills requirements? You must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, a GED. You must also have good mechanical skills, particularly good hand-eye coordination and attention to detail, because you’re going to be operating controls inside the crane that are run by computers. These are some of the basic skills you need to be good at this job.

The training

Now let’s talk about the training involved. Most people start with a general crane operators training program. It lasts about three or four months and it teaches you all of the fundamentals in a classroom setting.

Next, most people go on to an apprenticeship program. The union of operating engineers runs crane apprenticeship programs. And those are run much like most other trade apprenticeship programs. They take about three or four years, and you’re working under journeymen crane operators, learning the business from the ground up.

The certification process

Once you complete your apprenticeship program, you’re ready to be certified. And that happens in two parts. One is the written exam, which includes 55 questions.

The second is a practical exam where somebody from the certifying agency would come out to observe and test you in an actual construction site setting. That site is probably the one where you’ve been working as an apprentice on the type of crane that you’re going to be operating.

The leading certifying agency is the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, the NCCCO

More on certification

Once you’re certified, you need to get recertified every five years. That will meet the federal or the OSHA certification requirement. In addition, there are about 20 states that have their own crane operators license or certification. Illinois is not one of them.

However, the City of Chicago has its own crane operators certification. You obviously must have that certification to operate a crane in Chicago. And in some cases, Chicago’s certification is even more strict than the national certification required by OSHA.

Thanks for reading this post. If you have any questions, please shoot me an email. And please, stay safe and be well.

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