Tower Crane Operator National Occupational Analysis (NOA)

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this National Occupational Analysis (NOA) as the national standard for the occupation of Tower Crane Operator.

Occupational Analyses Series

Disponible en français sous le titre :  Opérateur/opératrice de grue à tour

NOC: 7371

Designation Year: 2010

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Red Seal Exam Self-Assessment Guide – Tower Crane Operator

Use this self-assessment tool (PDF, 719 KB) to rate your own understanding and experience with the tasks of the trade that are on the Red Seal examination.

General Information


“Tower Crane Operator” is this trade’s official Red Seal occupational title approved by the CCDA. This analysis covers tasks performed by tower crane operators whose occupational title has been identified by some provinces and territories of Canada under the following names:














Crane & Hoisting Equipment Operator: Branch 3 Tower Crane Operator


Crane Operator


Tower Crane Operator





Tower Crane Operator sub-trade


Tower crane operators operate tower cranes to lift, move, position and place materials and equipment. They perform pre-operational inspections. They calculate the crane’s lifting capacities according to the crane’s load chart and determine load weight, participate in setting up and dismantling cranes, and position and stabilize the crane before the lift. Tower crane operators work with other workers to make sure the load is placed exactly where they need it. They also perform regular inspections, and do minor repairs and maintenance on the equipment.

Tower crane operators work in the heavy industrial, commercial, residential and civil sectors. They may be employed by construction, surface mining, shipbuilding, offshore drilling rigs, railway and crane rental companies.

Tower cranes are used for specific worksite requirements, as they have a smaller footprint and are productive on sites where they will be used for a lengthy period. Some tower cranes are constructed by bolting a base to a specially made concrete pad and then erecting a tower (mast) of latticed steel up from it. Engineered counterweights are used to provide stability. On a hammerhead crane a boom or jib extends horizontally across the top of the crane. A crane cab where the operator sits is installed where the mast and boom meet. Luffer cranes have a jib that can be raised and lowered. Self-erecting cranes are set on retractable outriggers for support, have a mast and boom, and they are designed to be more mobile and versatile on jobsites.

They work outdoors in all kinds of weather, at heights and in noisy environments. Tower crane operators may be required to work in remote job sites.

The key attributes for tower crane operators are that they should be mechanically inclined, comfortable with working at heights and have good hand-eye coordination, excellent eye sight, and math skills. Safety is the number one priority for tower crane operators. Tower crane operators need to work cautiously and with extreme precision to ensure the safety of others. Physical fitness and good balance are important as the job requires them to climb up great heights and the operation of some cranes and the handling of accessories are physically demanding. Another key attribute is communication skills to effectively communicate with site personnel, supervisors, riggers, signallers and other tradespeople.

The skills of tower crane operators are transferable to operating other types of cranes and heavy equipment. With experience, tower crane operators may move into careers such as business owners, supervisors, trainers and job coordinators. As with other trades, the ability to mentor apprentices is extremely important to pass on the skills, knowledge and expertise of the trade.

Occupational Observations

Safety is the number one concern of tower crane operators, owners and contractors. Tower crane operators are required to take site-specific safety training to be familiar with the company, contractor and jobsite safety requirements. The regulatory environment in which Canada’s crane industry operates continues to grow more complex and more rigorous, covering issues such as licensing, due diligence and liability.

As cranes are becoming more sophisticated, the need for training is increasing. There are advances in computer technology, metallurgy and other disciplines associated with the engineering of crane equipment.

Due to technological advances in operator aids such as load moment indicators (LMI), tower crane operators are more aware of their crane’s operation and its limitations.

There is a greater variety of cranes such as luffer cranes, travelling tower cranes and self-erecting cranes in the tower crane industry.

Essential Skills Summary

Essential skills are needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways.

A series of CCDA-endorsed tools have been developed to support apprentices in their training and to be better prepared for a career in the trades. The tools can be used independently or with the assistance of a tradesperson, trainer, employer, teacher or mentor to:

  • understand how essential skills are used in the trades;
  • learn about individual essential skills strengths and areas for improvement; and
  • improve essential skills and increase success in an apprenticeship program.

Tools are available online or for order.

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the competency statements which support each subtask of the trade. The following are summaries of the requirements in each of the essential skills, as described by subject matter experts who participated in the NOA for tower crane operator.

In their daily work, tower crane operators read and comprehend several types of text. These include safety and work procedures as well as more complex regulations and manufacturers’ operating manuals.

Tower crane operators use workplace documents such as log books, load charts, hazard assessments and workplace policies and procedures to carry out their job. They must be familiar with regulations relating to hoisting, rigging and safe work environments. They must have the ability to read and interpret manufacturers’ specifications and load charts for the model of crane they are using. Depending on site-specific requirements, they may obtain information from engineered and construction drawings and plans such as climbing schematics and schedules.

Tower crane operators use writing skills to record comments or notes in logbooks or work records. They write messages to colleagues or management to give work details or reply to requests for technical information. They may also write longer descriptions and explanations for various reporting and data collection forms.

Tower crane operators use oral communication skills to coordinate work with site crews. Clear communication of technical and complex information is very important to avoid injuries and promote efficiency. Tower crane operators also use communication skills instructing apprentices, co-workers and on-site work crews. Good listening and visual skills are also required to communicate with riggers, signallers and other operators during lifts. Tower crane operators use verbal communication and hand signals to communicate the pace of lift movements and precise positioning of loads.

Tower crane operators use a range of math skills in their daily work. These include mathematical and physics concepts such as conversions, geometry, algebraic calculations, measurement and calculating load and lift requirements. They use load charts and manufacturers’ specifications to further determine procedures, limits, and the necessary equipment for rigging and hoisting.

Tower crane operators must use decision making skills to perform work planning and prioritizing. The decisions they make about the sequence of work have implications for everyone on site. Tower crane operators require strong analytical skills to effectively use their equipment.

Tower crane operators use problem solving skills to choose set-up locations and crane configurations for specific jobs. During lifts tower crane operators make operational decisions to start, stop and vary the speed and direction of lifts to ensure safe movement and placement of a load. They evaluate the safety of lifts before and during lifts and stop work if necessary.

To be effective, tower crane operators must establish close and ongoing job-task coordination with other workers on the job site. They work closely with clients and co-workers to plan lifts and ensure that their activities are coordinated with those of on-site crews. The operator may be located high in the operator’s cab and physically removed from their co‑workers; however they are in close communication with riggers, signallers and supervisors to coordinate lifts and load placements. Tower crane operators work in close coordination with other operators when performing multiple crane lifts and when in close proximity with other cranes and heavy equipment.

Tower crane operators are increasingly required to interpret electronic data transmitted to them from LMI, anemometers and electronic scales located in the cab of the crane. Controls for the tower crane may also involve computerized applications.

As construction methods and crane technology are advancing, tower crane operators must keep abreast of these developments. Regulatory changes may require additional certification such as for service work, erection and climbing, and ongoing learning to ensure compliance and safe working conditions.


The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) wish to express sincere appreciation for the contribution of the many tradespersons, industrial establishments, professional associations, labour organizations, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, and all others who contributed to this publication.

Special acknowledgement is extended by HRSDC and the CCDA to the following representatives from the trade.

  • Kelly Burla - Ontario
  • Barry Conroy - British Columbia
  • David Goldau - Manitoba
  • Les Kalinics - Ontario
  • Larry Lucas - Saskatchewan
  • Boyd Mahon - Alberta
  • Jay McGeough - Alberta
  • Julian Spino - Quebec

This analysis was prepared by the Labour Market Integration Directorate of HRSDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this analysis were undertaken by employees of the National Occupational Analysis (NOA) development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division. The host jurisdiction of Ontario also participated in the development of this NOA.

Comments or questions about NOAs may be forwarded to:

Trades and Apprenticeship Division
Labour Market Integration Directorate
Employment and Social Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 6th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0J9