After eight years of deliberation, and two years after a series of mass-fatality crane collapses, OSHA recently released its finalized set of guidelines for crane and derrick operation. The new rules are likely to have an important impact on several industries, particularly construction.
Since 2002, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has worked through its Cranes and Derricks Advisory Committee to develop new rules for addressing key hazards in crane and derrick operation. Several tragic crane collapses in 2008, as well as hundreds of deaths and injuries caused by crane misuse each year, put added pressure on updating the safety standards. Earlier this month, OSHA published the much-anticipated set of rules.
The new guidelines, known as Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Final Rule, replace the previous safety rules, which date back to 1971. The updated standards will go into effect on November 8 and will affect hundreds of thousands of workers across the construction industry and related fields.
"The significant number of fatalities associated with the use of cranes in construction led the Labor Department to undertake this rulemaking," Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in an announcement of the regulations. "After years of extensive research, consultation and negotiation with industry experts, this long overdue rule will address the leading causes of fatalities related to cranes and derricks, including electrocution, boom collapse and overturning."
One of the key provisions of the new measure is that all crane operators must be qualified and certified according to the standards outlined in section 1926.1427. In addition, any secondary staff working in the vicinity of a crane, such as riggers and signalers, must also be certified. After the rule goes into effect, employers will have up to four years to ensure that all crane workers have the proper credentials.
"The new rule is designed to prevent the leading causes of fatalities, including electrocution, crushed-by/struck-by hazards during assembly/disassembly, collapse and overturn. It also sets requirements for ground conditions and crane operator assessment," OSHA notes. "In addition, the rule addresses tower crane hazards, addresses the use of synthetic slings for assembly/disassembly work, and clarifies the scope of the regulation by providing both a functional description and a list of examples for the equipment that is covered."
The regulations also require employers to determine whether the ground on which a crane is positioned can support the anticipated weight of equipment or loads, and to assess potential hazards within the work zone, including power lines and objects or personnel within the radius of hoisting equipment. Employers are required to participate in regular inspections to ensure crane equipment is in safe operating conditions and that all workers are adequately trained.
"The new standards are designed to ensure that workers are properly trained and certified to operate equipment, and that employers make appropriate assessments and inspections on site before doing so," the White House explains. "These common sense updates will lead to better safety for approximately 4.8 million workers employed at 267,000 construction, crane rental and crane certification establishments."
The new standards were developed by a committee of 23 experienced members of manufacturing and trade associations, which also relied on input from unions, academic experts and other stakeholders in the equipment field. The amount of time it took to establish the new guidelines, however, has created some local regulatory problems.
"During the long wait for a federal rule, some local legislatures have implemented their own rules," Cranes Today reports. "While some of these have met with industry approval, others have been accused of overstepping their authority. In Miami-Dade, a crane rule was struck down by a judge, on the basis that it 'superseded' OSHA. In New York City, a similar action is being taken by SINY, the Steel Institute of New York."
Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Final Rule
U.S. Department of Labor (Federal Register), Aug. 9, 2010