Gaining additional skills and machine knowledge is vital for digger derrick operators to ensure performance competency in completing the task of digging holes, setting poles, and guiding material in place both safely and effectively, especially when working in the proximity of live power lines. OSHA has created a manual of the best practices for using these machines safely; of course, the manual is simply a guide and must be understood and then properly applied to the machine’s operation. Drivers must undergo supplemental equipment training to be certified in the operation of a digger derrick. It is important to understand: design and capacity limitations; precautionary measures; health standards; and identification of risks and hazards contributing to accidents before using one of these machines.
Since digger derricks have a unique design and configuration, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) has established a certification program as requested by both users and manufacturers. Following are the requirements to assure that candidates are qualified for training.
Candidates must meet the following requirements to earn certification.
- Must be 18 years old and above.
- Pass physical exams.
- Pass both written and practical exams.
- Act in accordance with the substance abuse policy of NCCCO.
- Must practice the NCCCO Code Ethics.
Physical Exam Requirements
After training, operators who received the certification must be physically fit throughout the validation period. A trainee must submit the following:
- Physical Examination Form from the NCCCO that is valid for three years.
- DOT Certificate from a Medical Examiner that is valid for two years.
Certified digger derrick operators must meet the ASME physical requirements throughout the entire certification period. This is to ensure that an operator continues to possess the proper reflex speed, endurance, vigor, and coordination to maneuver the equipment. Failure to do so would mean revocation of the license. The medical verification form must be signed to attest that the driver is emotionally stable, liable for any dizziness, has no physical defects, and has not experienced a seizure.
The written examination consists of seventy-five items in a multiple-choice question format which should be completed in no more than ninety minutes. The exam includes knowing the following.
- Site Evaluation – Eleven percent of the test is with this section and includes: the proper use of hydraulic outriggers; hazard identification and evaluation; corresponding regulations; and safety practices when working near power lines.
- Pre-Operation – Seventeen percent of the exam is included here, testing for knowledge regarding prior inspections, use of PPE, planning, barricading, proper set-up, use of decals and placards, proper transportation, and controls.
- Operations – An important section here as it counts for thirty-six percent of the test and is comprised of knowing about: federal regulations affecting safe driving; inspections; standard signal methods; dielectric protection; shutting down and security of the vehicle when unattended; manufacturer recommendations when operating equipment in various weather conditions; rigging; and reaction during an emergency.
- Technical – This makes up nineteen percent of the test, and consists of: basic terminology; functions and limitations; protective measures; backward stability; requirements for access and egress; rigging; and the use of winches.
- Load Charts – This is the final seventeen percent of the test and includes knowing the load chart in relation to load indicators.
A candidate must follow the instructions carefully and ask for clarification from the examiner before performing the practical exam. There are seven tasks that will be given to each participant to demonstrate the skills and knowledge gained from the lecture phase. Once the practical exam is completed, an examiner will record the results without discussing the outcome with participants and the results will be sent via email within twelve business days.
The digger derrick is a versatile and efficient drilling machine; if it is used by an untrained person, it could cost lives and property damage due to compromised safety. Operators must pass practical and written exams to receive proper certification and be able to use a digger safely. After the certification program, the trainee will know about the applicable safety standards, safety practices, and correct use of a load chart and be skilled in maneuvering the truck when digging, setting, and positioning telecommunication/electrical poles in place. Acquiring the proper training and knowledge of good skills can help avoid hazards that could arise during the use of the digger, protecting workers from any unnecessary problems!