Is This Job Right for Me?
A mobile crane operator is a position that is often overlooked as a career option and most do not realize that it is essential in the construction and general industry sector. Crane operators lift, move, position and place machinery, equipment or other large objects at construction sites, industrial facilities, ship-loading docks, railway yards and similar locations. Some cranes move from site to site, like those in construction, while others are a permanent fixture in a certain warehouse. There are also cranes on off-shore oil rigs and barges that are operated to load supply vessels and move equipment. Undoubtedly, there is a need for these remarkable machines and the properly trained personnel to operate them.
I can remember my fascination, as a child, with the heavy equipment toys of the day “Tonka” and the hours of imagining myself running the machinery. My eyes would grow wide with excitement watching cranes or heavy equipment in motion through a car window. However, as I grew older my aspirations of becoming a crane operator were challenged by educators and society in general. The question many asked, “Is it a viable career to operate a crane?” Well, it is safe to say that not all of us desire to be a college educated doctor, lawyer or accountant. We all have natural talents that allow us to excel in certain areas, and some of us truly harness the mentality of the construction industry. Believe me; the art of running that awesome machine can be very fulfilling!
Most do not realize that a crane operator position is one of the most respected in the industry and the compensation reflects it. However, with this compensation comes great responsibility. A crane operator needs good eyesight and excellent eye-hand coordination to the job well. The job also requires a certain amount of stamina and physical fitness. You often sit in the cab of your crane for long hours, working controls and repeating the same operation many times. You usually help assemble and dismantle your crane requiring physical strength to handle heavy parts and equipment as well as a certain amount of agility to climb up to your cab or do repairs and adjustments, often at a hundred feet in the air. You may be required to move from job site to job site, as needed and this can be disruptive to your social and family lives since you may have to live away from home for long periods of time.
To be a successful crane operator, you must have self-control and be able to keep a cool head in critical situations. You also have to get along with people and be able to work with other members of your crew and follow instructions. The safety of the crew and success of the job depend upon it. You should have above average mechanical ability, and you must understand the workings of your equipment since you are required to perform maintenance and repair work on your crane
Crane operators take pride in their work. Sometimes the job may be difficult and challenging, but there is enjoyment in doing it well. There is the feeling of accomplishment when a building that you're working on takes shape and becomes a reality. It can be a rewarding job, though, so long as you realize the crane operator responsibilities and training you will have to receive.
So how do you find yourself in the seat of these massive machines?
As with most things life there are many possible avenues you can take to arrive at a destination. The same goes for Crane Operators. A great way to learn any construction craft is on the job training (OJT). I found myself learning on the job, in the seat of a crane and pulling on levers under real worksite conditions learning trade secrets and “short cuts” from season crane operators. However, I found out several years later, these secrets and short cuts might not have been the safest way to do things. As a matter of fact, after I attended a formal training I realized, some of those practices were not only out of compliance with federal regulations and manufacture procedures, but also extremely dangerous.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics there are approximately 78 crane related deaths per year. Federal OSHA Subpart CC has made a lot of changes in retrospect to what has been happening on our work sites. Crane operators have an extreme amount of responsibility and need to fully comprehend the validity of OSHA/ASME standards that apply to the industry. In reality, crane operators have the lives of many at their fingertips, one wrong pull of a lever, incorrect crane set up or a shortcut taken, can lead to fatal consequences. The seat behind those controls is no place for a risk takers.
Another avenue is to attend formal training. CICB has a Mobile Crane Operator Training Program that allows crane operators in training to enhance their skills with emphasizes the OSHA, ASME and manufacturer standards that apply to crane operations within our industry. Many accidents are the direct result of lack of training. Proper training can improve safety and efficiency on the job site. According to OSHA Subpart CC, employers have a responsibility to ensure that their crane operators are qualified or certified to operate cranes.
My encouragement to employees who are looking to move in the direction of Mobile Crane Operations is to find a suitable program that will present the requirements of the applicable standards/regulations, as well as the practical hands on techniques required to be a “safe” operator. With the proper training and safety, Mobile Crane Operations can be a very rewarding career filled with endless opportunities.
Rico Garcia, Inspector/Instructor at CICB
Rico is a NCCCO Certified Mobile Crane, Articulating Crane and Overhead Crane Operator, NCCCO Certified Rigger, NCCCO Certified Crane Inspector and a NCCCO Accredited Practical Examiner
Call CICB at (800) 327-1386 to Learn More.