B.C. crane industry insider speaks out about ‘flaw’ in training for operators

After a number of serious safety incidents involving tower cranes in B.C., including one that claimed a life Wednesday, an industry insider is speaking out about what they consider a “flaw” in new operators are certified and trained.

The insider, who does not want to be identified, says it doesn’t take much to obtain a provisional ticket and get behind the controls of the heavy machinery.

CityNews has learned the fatal crane incident at a Vancouver worksite on Feb. 21 involved a full-scope operator who had been certified since 2015. However, the source says there are wider risks related to new operators in the industry.

Provisional certification through BC Crane Safety is granted after passing an online test, which can be taken at home, without any supervision.

The insider approached CityNews to say that should raise red flags, noting any would-be crane operator could be coached through the test or Google the answers with no oversight.

The source says it’s then up to the employer to provide on-the-job training. They add, employers may not have the right credentials to train new operators, and regulators don’t monitor education programs to ensure they’re done properly.

They say they have concerns about the number of fully certified operators versus provisional operators, who have three years before they need full testing and certification. With a shortage of crane operators, the industry insider claims employers are taking advantage of provisional workers.

They call it a “license to kill.” They claim, in their experience, half of these new crane operators are in seats with little to no training, many making simple mistakes.

The solution, they believe, is to require proper practical training, accredited by a third party, not employers.

However, BC Crane Safety is refuting the insider’s claims about the number of fully certified crane operators to provisional operators, saying it’s one to 0.81.

BC Crane Safety, which describes itself as an organization formed to create a certification program for crane operators in the province, adds online proctoring for provisional exams is being implemented, and stresses that exams and assessments for provisional operators are delivered by accredited third parties, not employers.

The insider’s calls come after three incidents involving cranes in the first two months of 2024, with WorkSafeBC called in to investigate the circumstances.

WorkSafeBC said Thursday that the recent incidents don’t appear to be related, however, it is reminding employers of the need to be “vigilant” in ensuring a safe working environment.

Editor’s note: This article now includes an update BC Crane Safety.

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