Qualified vs. Certified

Does certification surpass qualification & the reward for compliance?

When OSHA released the revised construction and crane standard (1926 Subpart
CC), they required construction riggers and signal persons to be “qualified” by
November 2010 and crane operators be “certified” by November 2014. However,
the language surrounding certification raised concern with industry stakeholders,
and OSHA extended the deadline for operator certification by 3 years. As it stands
today, operators are required to be qualified, but by November 10, 2017, all
construction crane operators must be certified. So what was the controversy about?
What do you need to do to reach compliance? How will it impact jobsite safety?
The following paragraphs explore these questions as the industry prepares for a
final ruling by OSHA.

A few years ago, I received a call from an unhappy customer asking how one of
his operators not only passed our training program, but also went on to gain a
national certification. After a review of this student’s records, I informed the
customer that this operator did a great job on all tests and practical exams. That’s
when he yelled over the phone, “But he’s the guy who nearly turned over our crane
and caused us to go through all this in the first place!”

So, this is a case of someone who passed all written and practical exams and is
now a certified crane operator, but his employer believes he is unqualified. The
question is: Is certification also qualification? In this case, it certainly was not. This
owner believed that the certified operator could jeopardize job safety if he was put
back in the seat of the crane.

The Responsible Party

A third-party training provider can only impart knowledge, teach skills to students
and provide test results to help customers make an informed decision. If you want
to know who makes the ultimate decision on whether personnel can perform a
certain task, employers need not look further than the nearest mirror.

OSHA is clear on what it means to be a qualified person: “A person who, by
possession of a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, or who by
extensive knowledge, training and experience, successfully demonstrated the
ability to solve/resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the
project.” It simply says, you, the employer, are the best person to understand
qualification for your jobs and you are the only one who could possibly deem
anyone as qualified to work on your site. However, one of the biggest issues
currently confounding OSHA moving forward with certification is their desire to
define certification as qualification (i.e. any person who achieves certification is
therefore qualified). Therein lies the conundrum faced by the owner in the opening.
The use of this operator, just because he is certified, is not an indication that he is
qualified to perform the work assigned.