Crane operators use machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or earth around a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto and off of container ships. Crane operators work full time and have eight-hour shifts, although longer shifts and overtime are common.
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Crane operators typically do the following:
In warehouse environments, most crane operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Automated sensors and tags are increasingly used to keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to work faster. In warehouses, operators usually work closely with hand material movers. Many crane operators work for underground and surface mining companies. They help to dig or expose the mine, remove the earth and rock, and extract the ore and other mined materials. In construction, crane operators remove earth to clear space for buildings. Some work on a building site for the entire length of the construction project. For example, operators often help to construct high-rise buildings by transporting materials to workers far above ground level.
Although education is usually not required, some companies prefer crane operators to have a high school degree. Most operators are trained on the job in less than a month. Some machines are more complex than others, so the amount of time spent in training will vary with the type of machine the operator is using. Training time also can vary by industry. Most workers are trained by a supervisor or another experienced employee, who decides when the workers are ready to work on their own.
Apprenticeships combine paid, on-the-job training with technical instruction. During their training, operators learn a number of safety rules, many of which are standardized through the occupational safety and health organizations. Employers must certify that each operator has received the proper training. Operators who work with hazardous materials receive further specialized training. Crane operators usually have several years of experience in related occupations. They may start as construction labourers and work as construction equipment operators or hoist and winch operators.
Several jurisdictions require crane operators to be licensed. To get a license, operators typically must complete a skills test in which they show that they can control a crane. They also usually must pass a written exam that tests their knowledge of safety rules and procedures.
Crane operators work in a variety of industries, such as construction, mining, metal manufacturing, and warehousing and storage.
The median annual wage of crane operators was $46,230 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.)