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H.S. Diploma
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What is a Crane Operator?

Also known as: Certified Crane Operator.

A crane operator is someone who uses a crane to transport various objects. There are many different types, makes, models and sizes of cranes, such as mobile cranes, tower cranes, boom trucks and self-erect tower cranes. Mobile cranes are used to do work a boom truck can’t do – higher lifts, heavier loads, and lifts that need a longer reach.

What does a Crane Operator do?

Crane operators typically do the following:

  • Control equipment with levers, wheels, or foot pedals
  • Move material according to a plan or schedule they receive from their superiors
  • Set up and inspect material moving equipment
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment
  • Record the material they have moved and where they moved it from and to

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.

What is the workplace of a Crane Operator like?

Crane operators work in a variety of industries, such as construction, pulp mills and refineries, mining, metal manufacturing, and warehousing and storage.

Some of the older cranes can be very noisy and using ear protection is essential. The crane operator often stays in the crane for most of the day, and eats lunch and takes breaks in the cab. They spend all day in constant communication with other people, and operate using hand signals from the crew or by using radios.

Crane operators can move up and become supervisors or foremen and occasionally people buy their own equipment and go into business for themselves as independent owner-operators.

How can I become a Crane Operator?

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.


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