ESTA director Ton Klijn has called on the construction industry’s major clients and contractors to give public backing to the fast-growing European Crane Operators Licence (ECOL) scheme.

Klijn said that many clients and contractors – especially those in the energy and civil engineering sectors – have long complained to ESTA that they do not know whether the crane operators working on their sites are properly qualified for the machines they are operating. There has been a concern that safety might be compromised as a result.

He said: “ECOL is making steady progress but we could move much more quickly with stronger support from the wider industry, especially from major international companies who wield great influence over their suppliers.

“For example, the big energy companies could publicly say that they expect crane operators on their sites to hold an ECOL licence or a verifiable qualification of comparable standard.

“This is a basic safety issue. Crane operator training standards vary hugely from country to country. ECOL is trying to raise the bar so that we eventually stop unqualified and dangerous operators from working equipment when they should not be doing so.

“We know that many firms are fully behind our work in this area, so now we are asking them to make their support public and to communicate that support to ECOL and their supply chains.”

The scheme has certainly made steady progress in recent years. Crane manufacturers Tadano and Manitowoc are the latest organisations to complete the process of becoming approved ECOL training centres and are expected to start their first ECOL courses soon.

The companies’ training centres in Germany are expected to receive their ECOL certificates shortly, after approval from Lloyd’s Register, the body tasked with overseeing standards.

Four ECOL training centres have already been approved - EUC Lillebælt in Denmark; Liebherr Werk Ehingen in Germany; Mammoet Academy in the Netherlands; and Sarens Academy in Belgium.

In a further development, the online examination system for ESTA’s ECOL project is now up and running in four languages – English, Dutch, Danish and German – and work is under way on a Spanish version.

Talks are also ongoing about signing mutual recognition agreements (MRA) between ECOL and relevant organisations in Spain, Germany and the UK. So far two MRAs have been agreed, with TCVT from the Netherlands and BCACS from British Columbia, Canada.

Further still, ECOL has also adopted a new in-company apprentice training structure, which the organisation’s leaders hope will make it easier for countries with a strong tradition of apprenticeships to become directly involved in the project.