The mere size of a digger derrick is a strong indication of just how dangerous it could be to handle one without the right knowledge of its proper use. The key to proper operation of these vehicles is through operator training, which is outside the scope of OSHA’S certification requirements Recently, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) was took over the role of providing written and practical exams for these specialized vehicles. The training is conducted to ensure that operators are equipped with the right skills and knowledge that is necessary to safely accomplish the various tasks to which the truck is assigned, including the digging, setting, and guiding of utility poles into place.
The NCCCO provides two separate types of exams – the written examination and the practical test. Fundamentally, each test is given to measure theoretical know-how, safety regulation concepts, and their applications in an actual work setting.
For the written exam, an applicant must sit in for paper/pencil testing (PPT). This is done after submitting all required paperwork and paying appropriate fees. The date scheduled for the test is given two weeks after the candidate files an application; while the location is provided three months prior to the actual test. Those eligible for PPT will get an admission letter one week prior to the scheduled date, confirming the approval of the submitted application.
The exam is comprised of various concepts and theoretical framework. Basically, it measures five different aspects, including site evaluation, inspection before operation, actual operation, technical knowledge, and importance of printed load charts. It also covers the knowledge obtained on power line hazards, safety regulations and practices, inspection before travel, use of PPE, system controls, decals and placards, knowledge on federal regulations, dielectric regulations, standard signal methods, rigging procedures, and the use of manufacturers load charts. Knowing these concepts is vital to pass the first phase of the exam.
For the practical exam, there are seven tasks that must be performed; however, prior to the examination, a candidate must undergo the briefing and familiarization before testing, in sequence. These tasks include the use of the checklist for inspections before operation where the candidate is asked the five most important checklist items of the digger derrick and what deficiencies to assess. After this, familiarization will follow in order to give the candidate ample time to become comfortable with the different controls of the machine and then will eventually be asked to lift the chain off the ground. The next task is to identify the four hand signals in bringing the chain back to the original position.
Most importantly, a participant will be asked to safely unfold the auger onto the ground and put it in the correct position for digging, followed by boring a hole, then folding the auger back into its proper position. Part of the task is to correctly pick up a utility pole, place it in the designated location, and maneuver the boom in a cradle position before leaving the testing station.
In the construction industry, accidents, derailment, and other such incidents happen every day; digger derrick operators have a fundamental role to play in the safe operation of this versatile vehicle. The biggest challenge is to operate these machines in the safest manner possible in order to minimize the risks and hazards brought about by such a unique design. The NCCCO offers training to registered participants to learn fundamental skills and knowledge that are crucial for safe driving of the digger derrick. After passing the written and practical exams and complying with NCCCO’s substance abuse policy and code ethics, operators can earn certification and be on the way to a great career!