Crane Operator Training for overhead cranes is not only important for the safety of your employees; it is also required by law!

If you own an overhead crane, it is important that you train your people how to operate that piece of equipment. No one reading this article right now would take the keys to their expensive car and give it to their teenager with no training and experience with that vehicle. Then set them loose to drive wherever they want! Yet in many factories in the United States this is exactly what is happening with regards to requiring employees to operate overhead cranes without proper training.

Many people believe that having an employee receive on-the-job training by an experienced operator is all that is needed and required. This is simply not true and is a very unwise decision. If you follow this practice what you are doing is putting the life of your new operator and all the people in your plant in the hands of the person who is giving them this on-the-job training. That is a lot of responsibility and faith to put in one individual. This is why Industry Standards such as ASME have changed their guidelines to now require a more detailed approach to training.

OSHA 1910.179 is the general industry standard for Overhead cranes. This regulation has changed very little since it was established. However, it does very clearly state in section (b) (8) that only Designated personal SHALL be permitted to operate a crane. Now, this may seem simple.  You may think, this does not point to a requirement for training. However, you must look at how OSHA defines what designated means.

In section (a) (35) designated is defined as being selected by the employer as being qualified to perform specific duties. Now OSHA 1910.179 does not define the word qualified. However, in a 1999 letter of clarification sent to a MR. Borum on this topic. OSHA explains they would use industry-standard ASME B30.2 for help in defining what qualified means. They also suggested to Mr. Borum that he use ASME B30.2 for guidance when developing a training program for crane operators.  So, the big question for employers is, how do you prove your crane operators are qualified. Most people in the crane industry would agree that it is almost impossible to do this without training. Since OSHA pointed to ASME, let’s look at what ASME says.

ASME B30.2 defines qualified as a person who by possession of a degree or extensive knowledge, training and experience has demonstrated the ability related to the subject matter. How then can any employer prove and document ability or competencies without training?

According to ASME B30.2 Section 2-3 – crane operator training SHALL be provided. ASME is also clear that training is required for any person who operates a crane. This means maintenance employees or even managers will be required to attend training if they at any time during their employment would be required to operate an overhead crane.

The ASME B30.2 committee does not stop there, they created section 2-3.3.3 which establishes very clear rules for managers or owners of overhead cranes. In this section they explain that owners/managers are required to not only provide training but SHALL also provide a written and practical evaluation to verify the person has the skills needed to safely operate the equipment.

It seems very clear based on OSHA 1910.179 and ASME B30.2, that training for employees who operate overhead cranes is required. There are many State OSHA programs such as MIOSHA and CALOSHA that also require training. Safety and HR managers should always refer to federal OSHA, their local State OSHA, and industry standards such as B30.2 when developing a training program for their crane operators.

In the end it is really all about safety. There is a saying in the crane industry that goes something like this. “Crane standards and rules are written in RED”. What this means to crane people is that when regulations are changing it means people were getting injured or killed in our industry. There are multiple studies that have been conducted by OSHA and other crane companies that show clearly how training can improve the safety of employees.  So hopefully people can begin to understand the reason for these industry standards and regulations requiring training is not only to create rules for employers to follow, but they were also created to help employers keep their people safe.

However, at the end of the day it is still up to the crane owners and people in Safety or HR roles to define the requirements of how their facility will train and qualify their employees to operate their equipment. Many people reading this article right now will continue to either ignore the need for training all together, or some will keep using the on-the-job training as the only way to qualify their people. Those methods may work for you if no one gets hurt. However, if you have a crane incident at your facility that requires a visit from OSHA. You may learn to regret the decision to ignore training when you hear that all so common OSHA phrase – “Show me the training records”.


  • Eric Street is the Technical Director / Owner for Qualified Crane Training and Consulting LLC
  • Qualified Crane Training and Consulting LLC is a provider of training and consultative services for the overhead and mobile crane industries
  • OSHA 1910.179 is Subpart N in the materials handling and storage section of the Occupational safety and health general industry standards for the United States of American. This standard covers Overhead and Gantry Cranes.
  • ASME is the American Standard of mechanical Engineers. ASME is a nonprofit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society.
  • 2 applies to the construction, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of hand-operated and power-driven overhead and gantry cranes that have a top-running single-girder or multiple-girder bridge, with one or more top-running trolley hoists used for vertical lifting and lowering of freely suspended, unguided loads consisting of equipment and materials.