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OSHA Extends Written Comment Period for Proposed Cranes Standard

OSHA Extends Written Comment Period for Proposed Cranes Standard
  • December 12, 2008

In response to numerous stakeholder requests, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it is extending the time for submitting written comments on its controversial cranes and derricks in construction proposed rule until January 22, 2009.  The comment period was initially set to expire on December 8.

The extension provides employers additional time to prepare written submissions to the Agency.  Jackson Lewis encourages all construction industry employers to review the proposed rule, compare the proposal to their existing safety practices, and tell OSHA about the positive and negative impacts of the proposed rule on their operations.

Major Overhaul of Construction Safety Rules

OSHA’s proposal would significantly revise OSHA’s existing requirements for crane use, which are now over 35 years old.  The proposal would apply to virtually all cranes used at construction sites.  OSHA predicts the rule will cost employers $123 million a year and contain an additional 157,981 hours of new paperwork requirements.

Operator Qualification and Certification

The most controversial provision in the proposed rule is “Operator Qualification and Certification.”  OSHA is proposing that all crane operators be certified to operate a crane, principally by having the operators trained and tested by an “accredited” crane operator testing organization.  There is one major problem with this requirement – there are currently only two major accrediting agencies in the United States.  OSHA expects that more accrediting agencies will arise after the rule becomes final.  Even if this proves correct, employers are concerned that compliance will be difficult and expensive.  This provision alone is estimated by OSHA to cost employers $37.3 million.  OSHA also has omitted any “grandfather clause” for experienced crane operators that would exempt them from having to become certified under the rule.  Even crane operators with over 30 years of experience and an unblemished safety record would need to be certified under the proposed rule.  Finally, under this requirement, a crane operator would have to be recertified every five years in order to continue to operate a crane.

Other Important Proposed Requirements

There are other key requirements proposed by the Agency, as well:

  • General contractors at construction worksites would be required to ensure that the ground at the site is firm, drained, and graded so that cranes used will have adequate support.
  • Employers operating cranes within 20 feet of power lines would be required to choose from a menu of different options to ensure the cranes do not strike energized lines, possibly injuring or killing employees.  The requirements for power line safety are some of the most complicated in the proposed rule, with an estimated cost of $30.8 million.
  • Employers would need to inspect cranes before every shift, once a month, and at least once a year.
  • All signal persons used in crane operations would need to be certified by a “qualified” evaluator, which the proposal defines as a person who has demonstrated that he or she is competent in accurately assessing whether the signal person understands the types of signals to be used, application of the signals, and crane operation and limitations, among other things.

The proposed rule also includes requirements that are specific to certain types of cranes.  For example, OSHA is proposing over 60 separate paragraphs related to the safety of tower cranes, which have been involved in several recent high-profile crane accidents.

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