Move for safety

15 April 2008

An update to the safety standard for construction cranes and derricks in the United States is long overdue. The industry has changed considerably since the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last revised the standard in 1971.

For example, the standard lacks specific guidance on hydraulic cranes because few such cranes existed in the US when the current regulations were promulgated. Nor is there mention of crane operator certification, an area where great strides have been made in recent years.

Moreover, the standard is impractical because it refers users to a number of other standards. That makes it more difficult and time-consuming to use than the all-inclusive standard under development.

From the beginning, SC&RA has been at the forefront of efforts to update the standard. When OSHA formed the Crane & Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (C-DAC) in June 2003, an SC&RA representative was among the group's 23 members.

This committee – composed of representatives from crane rental companies, equipment manufacturers, contractors, unions, insurance companies and OSHA – met nearly every month for a year before completing its work on 9 July 2004. C-DAC reached consensus when many in the industry did not believe that was possible.

Two days before that agreement, SC&RA was well represented by a five-member delegation that presented public comments before C-DAC concerning the last remaining issue – operator qualification and certification. “We believe crane operator qualifications is the most important component of this rulemaking,” I testified. “And unless operator certification is properly addressed and mandated within the rule, we believe the standard will be seriously flawed and the results of this committee's effort will be seriously compromised.”

In addition, the revisions proposed by C-DAC covered, among other areas; stop operation, signals, operational aids and safety devices, inspections, equipment modifications, wire rope, fall protection, hoisting personnel, machine guarding, work area control, power line safety, multiple crane lifts and tower cranes.

More than eight months after C-DAC finished its task, SC&RA learned that OSHA had yet to begin the required economic analysis of the underway soon after SC&RA wrote to Labor Secretary Elaine Cho on 24 February 2005 to express disappointment concerning the lack of progress in efforts to update the safety regulation.

Our letter noted, “Throughout our nation, lives and property will continue to remain at risk because of OSHA's inaction Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) meeting in December 2005, when it was reported that the revised standard could prevent approximately 30 to 50 fatalities and 15,000 injuries annually.

After a preliminary draft of the economic analysis was completed in early 2006, a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel was formed. Six SC&RA members served as Small Entity Representatives on that panel. Last fall, the panel asked OSHA to clarify the economic impact of certification and training requirements for crane operators in the proposed draft standard. This could result in yet another delay.

However, at about the same time, OSHA administrator Ed Foulke announced at an ACCSH meeting his commitment to getting the standard through before the Bush administration ends after the 2008 election: “Whatever I have control over and I can push along, you have my word I am going to do that.”

SC&RA continues to be frustrated that the process is taking so long. But we understand the need to take every precaution to attain the best possible regulation.

Although C-DAC designed the standard for use in the United States, there are international implications. For example, the existing rule calls for certain equipment to meet standards prescribed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The standard as revised by C-DAC would alternatively accept standards used by German standards and measurements organization, DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung).

We will remain involved with efforts to update the cranes and derricks standards, and we will keep our members worldwide informed of possible ramifications for their operations.

Latest News
Access Alliance welcomes Plantool
Plantool joins UK and Ireland rental alliance at Belfast meeting 
Partnerlift takes on SIM-Tec
Rental, sales and service company expands cooperative’s presence in Rhineland
Venpa acquires LocaTop
Investment continues group’s fast expansion in Italy