Signal Person Qualification

When the new OSHA rule was issued regarding cranes and derricks in construction in 2012, there were a few items in it that made the industry turn its collective head and take notice.  One such issue (explained in detail here), dealt with the IUOE challenge to OSHA’s requirement to have operators be certified on both crane capacity and type.

But that wasn’t the only issue that turned heads; another had (and still has) to do with the new requirement for employers to train each signal person in the proper use of any signals applicable to the use of a crane.

Section 1926.1428 of the OSHA final rule reads as follows:

  • (a)The employer of the signal person must ensure that each signal person meets the Qualification Requirements (paragraph (c) of this section) prior to giving any signals.  This requirement must be met by using either Option (1) or Option (2) of this section.

What this means is that the onus is now on the employer to make certain the person giving signals to the crane operator meets the OSHA requirements.  Looking closer at the standard, we see that it goes on to define the options for meeting the requirements.

Option (1) states that competence can be documented by a qualified third party evaluator when the evaluator meets the following definition:

  • Qualified evaluator (third party) means an entity that, due to its independence and expertise, has demonstrated that it is competent in accurately assessing whether individuals meet the Qualification Requirements in this subpart for a signal person.

Option (2) states that the employer’s evaluator can also document the signal person’s qualifications when he or she meets the following definition:

  • Qualified evaluator (not a third party) means a person employed by the signal person’s employer who has demonstrated that he/she is competent in accurately assessing whether individuals meet the Qualification Requirements in this subpart for a signal person.

The logical next question then becomes this:

What are the qualification requirements for the signal person? Essentially there are five parts to this:

  1. Know and understand the type of signals used.  If hand signals are used, the signal person must know and understand the Standard Method for hand signals.
  2. Be competent in the application of the type of signals used.
  3. Have a basic understanding of equipment operation and limitations, including the crane dynamics involved in swinging and stopping loads and boom deflection from hoisting loads.
  4. Know and understand the relevant requirements of § 1926.1419 through § 1926.1422 and § 1926.1428.
  5. Demonstrate the he/she meets the requirements in paragraphs (c)(1) through (4) of this section through an oral or written test, and through a practical test.

But it’s not enough for an employer to simply ensure that a person is qualified in signals, the employer must also document and be able to prove the employee is qualified.  OSHA states:

  • (3) The employer must make the documentation for whichever option is used available at the site while the signal person is employed by the employer.  The documentation must specificy each type of signaling (e.g. hand signals, radio signals, etc.) for which the signal person meets the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section.(b) If subsequent actions by the signal person indicate that the individual does not meet the Qualification Requirements (see paragraph (c) of this section), the employer must not allow the individual to continue working as a signal person until re-training is provided and a re-assessment is made in accordance with paragraph (a) of this section that confirms that the individual meets the Qualification Requirements.

As we can see from OSHA’s new document, the requirements on who can signal a crane are a bit stricter than they’ve been in the past.  It’s more important than ever to know exactly who it is that is directing your crane.