Report: OSHA Rule Needs Stricter Crane Operator Qualifications

The Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) has voted unanimously to accept the report of its Crane Workgroup concerning how OSHA's crane and derricks regulation (Subpart N) should be revised. The move comes as OSHA is in the midst of determining who will sit on the negotiated rulemaking committee that will revise Subpart N.

"Probably the most seminal part of our work has to do with operator qualifications," said workgroup chair James Ahern, just before ACCSH accepted the report at its Dec. 5 meeting in Washington, DC. Ahern, a contractor and president of Ahern & Associates, is an employer representative member of ACCSH.

Operator qualifications were also the most contentious issue, added Kevin Beauregard, a North Carolina Labor Department official who led the workgroup's effort in this area.

Accepting the report "does not mean that ACCSH acknowledges its correctness," explained Jane Williams, the committee's chair. She praised the final document, the fruit of four years of work by 36 representatives, but also termed it a "work in progress" that will not be made public or posted on the ACCSH Web site.

The ACCSH vote means the report will be forwarded to the negotiated rulemaking committee for use in its revision of Subpart N.

The working group report calls for the following operator qualification provisions:

  • Training that deals with Subpart N, crane load capacity, and operator characteristics;
  • Qualifications including a written exam every five years, a physical with a drug test, plus a practical 'hands-on' crane exam;
  • Maintenance requirements so that the employees who maintain a crane are familiar with the equipment, and assembly and disassembly operations must be done in the presence of a competent person;
  • Retraining in the event of a changed worksite or crane;
  • Training documentation requirements.

At the same meeting, Noah Connell, an OSHA official from the office of construction standards and guidance, said the agency received 55 nominations for membership in the negotiated rulemaking committee and is now in the process of determining whom to select. Once a list is published the public will have a chance to comment. When the list is finalized the first meeting will be scheduled.

Ahern spelled out, in order of priority, the workgroup's overall goals for a revised Subpart N, principles that may help set the agenda for the negotiated rulemaking committee:

  • Safer workplaces;
  • Reasonable rules that are simply written;
  • One location, so users need not refer to other documents to understand or comply with the provisions;
  • Uniform enforceability.

In other construction rulemaking, Connell also the agency is moving ahead with plans for a rule governing confined space in construction: a draft text will be submitted for Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review in the spring.

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