- Are you good with your hands?
- Do you have strong depth perception and good communication skills?
- Would you like working with machines?
- Do you like travel?
- Can you work in high places?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then a career as a Crane Operator could be right for you.
Crane operators control cranes or draglines to lift, move, position or place machinery, equipment and other large objects at construction or industrial sites, ports, railway yards, surface mines and other similar locations.
They are employed by construction, mining, shipbuilding, railway and crane rental companies.
As a Crane Operator, your duties may include the following:
- Operating cranes to lift, move or place equipment and materials
- Inspecting cranes and calculating capacities
- Assembling tower cranes on-site
- Performing routine crane maintenance such as cleaning and lubricating
There are three types of cranes: boom trucks, tower cranes and mobile cranes. Boom trucks and mobile cranes are broken down further into specialized crafts.
Some operators work with all three types, while others choose to specialize:
- Heavy boom truck path – set up, service and operate hydraulic booms that are capable of moving heavy loads of 18 tonnes or more
- Medium boom truck path – set up, service and operate hydraulic booms that are capable of moving heavy loads weighing between 4.5 tonnes and 18 tonnes
- Wellhead boom truck path – set up, service and operate hydraulic booms
- Tower crane path – service and operate travelling, fixed or climbing-type cranes with a vertical tower and a jib (protecting arm)
- Mobile crane path – service and operate booms that are mounted on either mechanically or hydraulically driven cranes, and are capable of lifting heavy loads of 13 tonnes or more
- Conventional mobile crane path – perform the same duties as the mobile crane path, but you will be limited to mechanically driven cranes
- Hydraulic mobile crane path – perform the same duties as the mobile crane path, but are limited to hydraulically driven cranes
The standard work week for crane operators is 40 hours (8 hours a day, 5 days a week). As with many careers in construction, there are peak periods that will require you to work overtime. The number of additional hours you work each week depends on the construction sector and region you work in, and will vary from one job to the next.
As a Crane Operator, you will work outdoors, often in noisy conditions. You may have to travel to various job sites and occasionally live away from home for long periods of time.
Crane operators work closely with other equipment operators and with ground crew.
As with all careers in the construction industry, safety is the top priority. Crane operators are trained to work safely and take special precautions to protect against injury.
Training and Certification
Apprenticeship involves both classroom studies and on-the-job training under the supervision of a certified Crane Operator, called a journeyperson.
As an apprentice, you earn while you learn and are paid by the hour while working on the job site. Wages start at about 50 per cent of a journeyperson’s hourly rate and increase during your apprenticeship until you reach the full rate.
Entering an apprenticeship program
Requirements for crane operator apprenticeship programs vary across Canada. In most provinces and territories, you must have a Grade 10 education or equivalent to enter a crane operator program.
Some provinces and territories offer secondary school apprenticeship programs that allow high school students to work towards a career as a Crane Operator.
Crane operator apprenticeship training programs vary in length depending on the equipment you will be operating. The programs range from one to three years in length and involve on-the-job training, technical training and a final certificate exam. Some programs also involve the completion of a self-study course before beginning any technical training.
Related work experience or completion of a crane operator program at a college or technical institute can reduce the time required to complete your apprenticeship.
Certification is required in some provinces and territories and available but voluntary in others (see below). Becoming certified is always recommended as it tells employers and other workers that you are a skilled professional, and it helps you get jobs.
To be certified as a Crane Operator, you usually need to complete a one- to three-year apprenticeship program. Once you successfully complete the required on-the-job training, technical training and exams, you are awarded a journeyperson certificate.
In some provinces and territories, if you have on-the-job experience and some high school, college or industry courses in crane operating, you may be eligible for crane operator certification.
As a certified Crane Operator, you may write the Interprovincial Exam to qualify for the Interprovincial Standards’ Red Seal. With a Red Seal, you can work as a Crane Operator anywhere in Canada.
Certification for boom truck operators is compulsory in Alberta and Manitoba, and is available but voluntary in British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan.
Certification for mobile crane operators is compulsory in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, and is available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and the Northwest Territories.
Mobile crane operators may require a provincial licence to drive mobile cranes on public roads.
Certification for tower crane operators is compulsory in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, and is available but voluntary in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan.
In addition to provincial certification, some employers may require internal certification.
In provinces and territories where certification is not available, it may be possible to study as an apprentice through your local labour organization. Check out our Related links to find out who to contact.
As a Crane Operator, it is necessary to keep your skills current. Modern cranes often have sophisticated computers in the cab to assist the operator. You have to keep up with new technology developments by reading and speaking with others in the field.
Anticipated In-Demand Regions
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