Standard practical test for mobile crane operators in Canada

Group advancing development of national demonstration of skills test for mobile crane operators, a key trade serving many Canadian industries

An industry committee led by the Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table (Skills Table) is advancing the development of a voluntary, Canada-wide demonstration of skills test (DOST) for mobile crane operators, a key occupation serving many industries.

High-risk occupation
A mobile crane operator is a high-risk occupation in increasingly short supply that has a significant influence not only on the safety of workers, equipment and goods, but ensuring the uninterrupted operation of work-sites for major Canadian industries.
In recent years, industry stakeholder groups have expressed support for harmonization of competency standards and a national DOST to provide benefits to industry, operators and the public in terms of: increased safety; reduced costs and red-tape; greater employer assurance in meeting liability of worker competency; and more fluid employer and worker mobility, says Lionel Railton, chair of the project committee. The committee, working closely with the Canadian Hoisting and Rigging Safety Council, is seeking to develop and pilot a voluntary, national mobile crane operator (lattice boom friction and hydraulic) DOST. This standard is being developed to complement the existing Red Seal endorsement.

“We want to develop a national, mobile crane operator DOST based on existing best practices, both nationally and internationally. Ideally for jurisdictions currently using a DOST, it would be adopted and used going forward; and, for jurisdictions not currently using a DOST, when choosing to engage, our standard would be used in the introduction of their activities,” says Railton, who is also the Canadian Director of the International Union of Operating Engineers, a labour group that has advocated for a national DOST for more than 20 years.

The committee — comprising industry employers and labour — has now published the first iteration of a working background report focused on mobile crane DOSTs and related research found both in Canada and internationally. A working group of national subject-matter experts will hold their second meeting in Toronto in March. Consultation with industry stakeholders in various provinces is set for mid-year.

The need for a standardized DOST comes at a critical time. Shortages in this industry have been well documented in recent research, as well as in direct union and employer feedback from across Canada. Data from BuildForce indicates excess demand for mobile crane operators in many provinces. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has included crane operators as one of the 29 occupations that are
given priority in the immigration application process because of short supply.

Current fragmented approach
Several provinces in Canada offer mobile crane operator training programs that include theory testing, practical assessment through a DOST method, certification and Red Seal endorsement. However, approaches to DOSTs vary across the provinces and territories. This fragmented approach to mobile crane operators DOST activities across Canada creates many negative impacts, including:

  • Restricted labour mobility: Available crane operators can’t travel to another province for work due to jurisdictional requirements to meet a specific DOST standard.
  • Increased red tape: Employers are faced with the administrative burden of continually demonstrating new workers’ competencies.
  • Liability risk: Employers in jurisdictions without compulsory practical assessment criteria shoulder increased liability for ensuring their workers’ competency.
  • Additional costs: When a crane does not operate, the rest of the site operations are significantly impacted. Employers incur costs due to project delays because of an empty seat until an operator is available.
  • Increased safety risk on the worksite: By not having to demonstrate their competencies in a consistent manner, crane operators may perform lifts incorrectly.

A DOST is a practical assessment that requires the candidate to perform a particular task, or set of tasks, to demonstrate competence before working on a job site. A DOST was identified as “the single most important form of assessment” in a Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship survey of tradespeople, employers, educators and labour representatives.

“We know there is strong and increasing support for the standardization of practical assessment in labour training. Importantly, we know it can be done in Canada, as seen in other occupations.” says Railton. “Although the needs and interests of industry vary across the jurisdictions, we have seen successful agreement on benchmarks for a trade, allowing each jurisdiction a degree of freedom.”

Mobile crane operators work in the construction of bridges, hydroelectric dams, mines and ports; oil and gas development; manufacturing; and, the completion of transportation, infrastructure, residential and commercial projects.

For more information, see:

About Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table

The Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table is a non-profit, regional partnership between labour, business and education/training institutions. Our mission is to ensure the Asia Pacific Gateway has enough people with the right skills and training to meet its needs.

Maarten Zijlmans

Passionate about Internet and cranes, Maarten Zijlmans founded He is the main editor with the goal of making CraneMag the #1 online cranes magazine.

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