Crane Operator Training and Crane Inspections: Your Guide from A to Z

Our consultants are NCCCO certified inspectors and provide inspections and investigations for operating, rigging, and investigating crane mishaps up to OSHA standards.


Crane operators are responsible for operating large pieces of machinery – which can be extremely dangerous if used improperly. To ensure the safety of others as well as the proper transportation of materials, crane safety training and operator certification are required by law. Additionally, cranes must be carefully inspected frequently to check for signs of mechanical issues that could cause damage, injuries, or accidents.

Unfortunately, every year there still are numerous injuries and incidents – and over 40 deaths- caused by crane operations. The majority of these accidents were caused by objects falling or striking, transportation incidents, or falls from the crane.

Crane accidents are not just dangerous, they are also quite expensive. If issues are missed during the crane inspection and the machine breaks during use, it could damage or destroy buildings and materials.

Repairing cranes can be costly – as it requires expensive replacement components, pieces and labor costs. Additionally, time is lost while the crane is being fixed – this can add up to thousands of dollars in lost productivity.

These are just a few reasons why crane operator training and classes are so important.

Now, you may have a few questions about the ins and outs of crane training and inspections. In this guide, we will teach you all that there is to know about crane operator training, NCCCO certification, crane inspections, and crane safety training.

Let’s start things off with some FAQs.

  • Why does my crane need an inspection?

    First and foremost, OSHA requires a visual inspection of all cranes before use. During a crane inspection, all equipment should be examined for signs of excess wear, rust, corrosion, or damage. These inspections won’t just help you to avoid an OSHA fine– they can also help to prolong the life and use of the crane and equipment. Most importantly, it will help to significantly reduce the number of injuries and accidents.

  • Who is qualified to inspect my crane?

    OSHA requires either a “competent or qualified person” depending upon if the inspection is classified as a daily, monthly, post-assembly and/or annual crane inspection. For an individual to be qualified they must first meet the definition defined in OSHA standard 1926.32 “by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.” This means that the person must complete crane safety training and have extensive knowledge of the proper procedures for inspections. It is highly recommended that your inspector receives NCCCO certification (National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operations).

  • What is a ‘competent person” and when can they perform crane inspections?

    OSHA defines a “competent” person as one who is “capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards… and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” So, a competent person is able to conduct daily and monthly crane inspections.  This is a visual inspection looking for any deficiencies with the crane such as but not limited to: portions of the crane which could be damaged, such as the controls, braking system, load hook, and load-sustaining components.

  • What inspections require a “qualified person”?

    All post assembly, annual and post incident inspections must be completed by a qualified person who has sufficient crane inspection training, along with any crane that has been out of service for 3 months or more.

  • What skills and certifications are taught in crane operator training?

    All of the basic information regarding crane operation is covered during training, including set-up, wire rope basics, load dynamics, lift planning, load charts, signaling, communication, and crane inspection protocol.

  • What happens during crane operator evaluations?

    All crane operators must be evaluated based upon the crane type and configurations to be in compliance with the OSHA 1926 Subpart CC standards. During the evaluation, operators will be tested to measure their knowledge and capabilities. It is required that a crane operator is evaluated for each type of crane per configuration and based on the scope of work or task being performed.

It is highly recommended to have all operators and inspectors complete crane safety training. This certification process guarantees that operators understand the mechanics of the crane they are operating – in addition to having a thorough grasp of the safety precautions and inspection procedures.

So, let’s dive in and discuss more crane training and inspections.

How often should I get my crane inspected?

At the very minimum, it is essential to meet OSHA’s crane inspection requirements as outlined in the OSHA Standard 1926.1412 Subpart CC. This includes the mobile crane standard inspection regulation checklist which is designed to prevent workplace injuries and accidents.

  • Each Shift Inspection

    OSHA first requires all crane operators to conduct a visual inspection before a crane is used. This frequent inspection is a detailed “look over” of all moving parts for signs of damage or discrepancies, such as a hook latch that is not secured properly.  During this inspection, the areas that are most commonly worn or damaged from use are examined, such as the hoisting ropes, load bearing components, tires, brakes, attachment points, or areas that are exposed to water. Last, look underneath to ensure that there are no oil spills or leaks.

  • Monthly Inspection

    A monthly inspection is very similar to a shift inspection but requires a complete list of the items checked, condition of those items, name, signature and date from the competent person.  All of the hooks and hoisting equipment must also be inspected every month. Other pieces such as bolts, sheaves, locking devices, and the braking system should have periodic inspections.  As with a shift inspection, a functional test inspection shall be conducted to ensure all crane functions are operating properly.  A lock-out/tag-out procedure must be followed if any of the crane functions are not responding properly.  Records must be maintained for a minimum of 3 months from the most recent monthly inspection.

  • Post-assembly  

    If a crane is moved from one site to another, it must be examined via a qualified individual after it has been re-assembled. This is to ensure that all of the pieces are put back together properly and secured. The specifications from the manufacturer’s manual should be compared to the physical configuration. All of the basics should be covered here, such as:

    • Pins
    • Keepers
    • Wire Rope reeving
    • Load Moment Indicator system
    • Boom hoist
    • Luffer upper limits setting
  • Annual/Comprehensive Inspection

    Additionally, it is required that all active cranes are inspected annually to locate signs of wear or parts that need to be fixed/replaced. OSHA requires that annual inspections be conducted by a qualified person with recorded results of the findings, such as parts that have been replaced or any current signs of damage.

  • Modified equipment Inspection

    If any parts of the crane have been modified in some form, then this must be inspected before use. OSHA 1926.1412(a)(1) Regulation states:

    “Equipment that has had modifications or additions which affect the safe operation of the equipment (such as modifications or additions involving a safety device or operational aid, critical part of a control system, power plant, braking system, load-sustaining structural components, load hook, or in-use operating mechanism) or capacity must be inspected by a qualified person after such modifications/additions have been completed, before initial use.”

What type of record-keeping is required by OSHA?

After each monthly and annual crane inspection, proper documentation is required to be maintained and remain available on the equipment in the case of an OSHA inspection.

These documents must contain:

  • Date of the inspection
  • Name and Signature of the inspector
  • The make, model and serial number of the crane or other identifier of the hook, chain, or rope that was inspected
  • Any noted damage with additional notes

Here is an example of a crane inspection form:

crane inspection sheet

Crane Operator Training OSHA 1926 Subpart CC

OSHA standard 1926.1410 states the requirements for operation concerning equipment operations and power line safety. This standard states:

“The power line owner/operator or registered professional engineer who is a qualified person with respect to electrical power transmission and distribution determines the minimum clearance distance that must be maintained to prevent electrical contact in light of the on-site conditions. The factors that must be considered in making this determination include, but are not limited to: Conditions affecting atmospheric conductivity; time necessary to bring the equipment, load line, and load (including rigging and lifting accessories) to a complete stop; wind conditions; degree of sway in the power line; lighting conditions, and other conditions affecting the ability to prevent electrical contact.”

This means that any operator must complete the proper crane operator training and classes needed to safely maneuver the crane. This training should cover the necessary topics, such as load lines, safety procedures, and hazard communication.

OSHA standard 1926.1427 states the requirements for crawler and truck cranes, which are commonly used for material handling and storage. All operators must receive adequate crane operator training before using this type of equipment.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has also set out even more specific standards. This organization’s ASME B30.5 standard requires that operators are trained in specific tasks and responsibilities, such as specific types of crane models, how to use controls, and even the working environment.

ASME also includes physical requirements for crane operation certification, such as eyesight, hearing and other health requirements.

If operators do not have the required crane operation certification or their certification has expired, the company could face major fines. This could also put employees in grave danger as crane operator training focuses on safety precautions. An unqualified operator who makes a mistake would be responsible for any accidents.

Classroom Training for Crane Operators

Crane operator training is unique in that part of it is taught in a traditional classroom setting while there is also hands-on training. NCCCO certification requirements vary between programs but for the mobile crane certified operator program they will need to pass a core written exam along with a specialty written exam per crane type. Operators must also pass a practical exam within twelve months after the written exam has been completed.

During classroom training, an instructor will cover a variety of topics related to crane inspections, operations, safety precautions and devices. Some of these topics will include:

  • General descriptions of cranes and the different types

    Students will learn the proper terminology and location of key crane parts, such as the boom, hoist, hook, outriggers, counterweights, and all parts within the operator’s cabin. They will also learn the differences between different types of cranes and what situations they are used for.

  • Shafts, Gearing, Bearings

    During training, students will learn about the gears, shafts, and bearings in the crane. These are primarily used in the transmission to move machinery. Students will also learn how to spot the signs of gear distress and wear to prevent accidents if a piece malfunctions.

  • Operating Modes

    Students are also trained on the differences between manual and automatic modes on the crane. During automatic modes, a crane operates through a preset mode. The operator must be trained to understand how to program these cycles. Manual mode requires a bit more training and understanding – since the operator will be controlling the crane by themselves.

  • Gross Capacity Explained

    Students will learn the concept of gross capacity, which is the net capacity plus deductions from the load chart. Deductions include the weight of the components on the crane, such as the hook, rigging gear, or headache ball. Crane operators must understand how to calculate this quickly as the load weights will change very often.

  • Inspection Procedures

    Students will also be instructed on the proper procedures and crane inspection forms to follow. This will give them adequate training to conduct any and all necessary inspections and proper documentation.

  • Types Of Controls/Brakes

    Some cranes have an electrical control and load brake, while others use mechanical. Mechanical and electric load brakes act as a secondary braking system for the crane hoist. This helps to prevent a load from free-falling and controls the speed of the rated loads. During a crane inspection, this mechanism must be carefully examined as it serves such an important role.

  • Operator Notes, Hazards & Warnings (Lock Out/ Tag Out)

    OSHA sets out requirements for a lock out/tag out system to be used on all equipment. This is how parts are monitored by documenting the last date of inspection or replacement. During training, operators learn how to properly tag and the terminology to use in their notes for hazards and warnings.

  • Configurations

    Students will learn the different setups for cranes depending on the task, load weight, and other factors. Courses will cover different configuration setups and how to dismantle.

  • Types, Functions, Inspections

    During classroom training, students are taught the basics of equipment names, what they do, and how they are inspected.

  • Operating Manuals

    Operation manuals are covered during training as these include specifications for the specific crane model, along with government regulations, hazards, and maintenance requirements. Crane operators must know how and where to find the information that they need within these manuals and how to understand the terminology.

  • Using Checklists

    There are specific checklists used to ensure that all of the proper procedures are followed for specific tasks, such as a crane inspection. Operators are taught how to follow these and when to use specific checklists.

  • Proof Testing (Load Testing Requirements)

    Students are taught how to determine load limit tests. These must be completed after a crane is first commissioned, repaired or altered to ensure that it can still operate safely with its maximum load capacity. All proof test results must be documented and recorded.

  • Wire Rope/Hooks (Types, Configuration, Inspection)

    Students are also taught the different kinds of wire ropes (IWRC, rotation resistant, galvanized, bright, stainless steel) and hook types (eye hook, clevis hook, swivel hook). They will also learn when to use each type, how to secure it properly to the crane, and how to inspect the ropes and hooks before use.

  • Crane Safety And Inspection Regulations And Requirements

    During general class students are taught what requirements crane equipment must meet to pass inspections.

Hands-on Training for Crane Operators

Crane operator training also involves hands-on practice operating different types of cranes for various applications. Crane operators need to learn all they can while under supervision so they can practice proper procedures that enforce safety regulations.

Some crane operator training and classes are using cutting edge technology to make the hands-on practice safer and more economical. Virtual reality software can allow operators in training to use the manuals and experience different scenarios in a safe, digital environment. This is a great starting point for crane operator training before they move on to real machinery.

During these hands-on portions of crane operator training, students will run through various scenarios, including:

  • Real Inspections

    Hands-on training involves showing operators how to conduct inspections. Teachers will show students real-life examples of how to catch signs of wear or damage and how to document it correctly on an inspection checklist.

  • Records

    Operators are taught how to keep records correctly. This is an important procedure as OSHA requires monthly, periodic, and annual inspections to be documented and retained on the equipment.

  • Operator Aids And Safety Equipment

    Students will learn how to locate and utilize safety equipment and aids that are used with cranes. Operational aids help the operator to determine specific safety factors, such as the boom angle indicator.

  • Wear, Inspection, And Replacement Criteria

    All parts of the mobile crane will show signs of wear after use. Operators will learn how to measure this type of wear during a crane inspection and determine whether or not it meets replacement criteria.

  • Boom Types

    Students will practice operating both hydraulic/telescopic and lattice booms.

  • Hoist System

    Operators will practice using the hoist system, switching out ropes, inspecting the pieces, and how to lubricate the wire cables to prevent damage or friction.

  • Load Tests

    These are required for new installations and first commissioning as well as after any repair, modifications, or additions which could affect safe operation. Crane operators are taught the step by step procedures for these load tests on different types of cranes.

  • Load Charts General Review

    Students will learn how to read a crane load chart. They will also learn what affects the capacity of the equipment, such as parts of the line, attachments, boom length, and radius.

Crane Operator Certification Process

Once the students complete the classroom and hands-on training, it is time to prepare for the certification process. The NCCCO certifications are rigorous and involved, covering both a hands on practical exam as well as multiple-choice question written examinations for each crane type. Students may also take specialized exams for specific machine models or circumstances as needed.

The practical exam involves a practice run where a student will be instructed to complete a set of tasks, such as moving material from one point to another or maneuvering through an obstacle course. Operators will be timed and they may be penalized for mistakes, such as knocking over obstructions.

Some of the practical exam tasks include:

  • Pre-operational inspection
  • Placing chain in a stop circle
  • Following OSHA hand signals
  • Placing objects in barrels
  • Negotiating corridors with a test weight
  • Safe shut down and securing procedures

Additionally, operators will be administered timed written exams with multiple-choice questions for the applicable crane types they intend to certify in. A minimum score of 75 is needed to pass the crane operation certification. It typically takes about twelve days to receive scores after the exam is completed.

  • Eligibility 

    NCCCO has several requirements that a person must meet before they are allowed to take the exams. First, they must be at least 18 years old. The student must comply with NCCCO’s substance abuse policy, which requires that operators must not use any substance such as alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances while operating a mobile crane. They must also comply with the NCCCO Code of ethics which requires students to provide accurate personal information, abide by legal and safety regulations, and ethically conduct themselves.

  • Why Choose an NCCCO Certificate through Colorado Crane Operator School?

    NCCCO is a nationwide certification program that is recognized by OSHA for crane operator certification. It meets OSHA regulations as well as ASME B30 standards, amongst many other major industry groups. Essentially, it is considered to be the “Gold Standard” of crane operator certification.  Colorado Crane Operator School is the premier training facility in the country assisting future crane operators prepare for an exciting career as a crane operator.


Participating and completing crane operator training and classes is essential for supporting a safe working environment. All operators must understand how to safely control mobile cranes as well as conduct inspections.

At Colorado Crane Operator School, we offer a variety of training courses from crane operators and rigging consultants. All of our courses meet OSHA requirements and will prepare students to take the NCCCO certification exam. We offer ten-day training programs, NCCCO certification preparation workshops, training for riggers, and signal persons.

To learn more about our crane operator training and classes, please reach out.