ASSE Wants Concensus Approach for Crane Safety in Washington State

Feb. 28, 2007
In letters to Washington State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Rep. Steve Conway, American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Donald Jones, Sr., PE, CSP, expressed support for increased oversight of cranes on worksites by the Washington Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), yet urged legislators to take a different approach then what is being presented in new crane safety legislation.

"Our members share the deep concern residents have for the recent fatal crane accidents that have occurred in Washington and the need to increase crane safety," Jones said. "However, our ASSE members in Washington state with expertise in crane safety have reviewed H.B. 2171 and S.B. 5990 relating to crane safety and, although we support the underlying intent of the bill to improve safety, we do not believe the approach taken will effectively accomplish this goal. We urge a simpler approach that would be more in keeping with the highest levels of crane safety that now exists in the industry."

ASSE's concern is that the overall approach would codify highly technical issues that are not typically addressed in legislation. Safety issues involving cranes already are addressed through well-established and widely accepted voluntary consensus standard process. This process has an established means of allowing for continual updating of standards as knowledge of how to keep workers and workplaces safe increases. Companies try to meet these standards and understand that voluntary consensus standards help create a court-established legal standard for appropriate conduct by employers.

"By not relying on industry-accepted consensus standards, the legislation has the potential of leading to confusion," Jones insisted."In whatever approach is finally decided upon, we urge you to ensure that these standards be examined so that there is no inconsistency with the terminology already well-established, which reflect widely accepted industry terminology."

ASSE pointed to several other areas of concern with the legislation, such as why Washington would want to establish its own approach to a third-party certification system for crane operators when federal OSHA already has such a program.

""A simpler approach consistent with requirements employers and safety professionals already follow in other states would avoid any confusion," Jones said. "ASSE also opposes language requiring third party engineering review of any nonstandard plans for cranes and that 'pile drivers' are not appropriately included in the definition of 'crane,' among various concerns."

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