ASSE: Consensus Standards Should Be Referenced in Cranes and Derricks Rule

March 18, 2009
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) expressed a variety of concerns focused on the failure to reference widely accepted national voluntary consensus standards addressing crane safety in the proposed updated federal Cranes and Derricks in Construction Rule in testimony by ASSE professional member Matt Burkart at a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) public hearing.

The concerns reflect comments ASSE submitted in January to OSHA's Acting Assistant Secretary Thomas M. Stohler for the record of the cranes and derricks rulemaking. In its comments, ASSE requested a hearing be held to discuss its concern that OSHA failed to reference the A10 or other national voluntary consensus standards addressing crane and derrick safety.

Burkart is a crane safety expert from Southampton, Pa., and a member of the A10 Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations Standards standard committee and chairman of the ASCE Construction Site Safety Committee. In his testimony, Burkart brought attention to OSHA’s failure to fulfill its duty under law to consider voluntary consensus standards in rulemaking.

“We cannot help but come to that conclusion when the proposed rule fails to reference even once the ASC A10 standard Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations,” Burkart said. “The inability of OSHA to identify a key set of standards impacting crane safety is a significant failure by OSHA to perform meaningful background research and indicates the agency failed to comply fully with Public Law 104-113.”

Public Law 104-113, the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1965, requires all federal agencies to “use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, using such technical standards as a means to carry out policy objectives or activities determined by the agencies and departments.”

“ASSE’s members have had extensive and successful experience in helping develop occupational safety and health standards through consensus building in the ANSI voluntary standards development process, including national standards impacting the safe operation of cranes and derricks,” Burkart explained. “We already work successfully in managing crane safety through these voluntary consensus standards. Therefore, we need clarity and consistency between the existing voluntary standard and a final OSHA standard.”

Burkhart also stated ASSE’s support for OSHA’s general approach to helping ensure that crane operators are qualified or certified to operate the equipment covered here. Burkart went on to say, however, “We urge OSHA to rewrite the proposed provisions to require that operator certifications be accredited by the same nationally recognized accrediting agencies that accredit organizations certifying the professional competence of safety and health professionals. Without this level of rigor, ASSE fears that unknown entities with little experience in professional certification will be able to establish certifications that do not adequately demonstrate professional crane operator competence and put at risk the advances in crane safety we all want.”

Negotiated Rulemaking

In addition, Burkhart urged OSHA to look closely at the negotiated rulemaking process used to develop this proposed rule to see if lessons can be learned to help improve this process as a tool for engaging the entire safety and health community in OSHA’s rulemaking.

“While no approach to standards setting can be without challenges, negotiated rulemaking best mirrors the success of the voluntary consensus process and holds promise for some of the more difficult occupational safety and health issues,” Burkart said on behalf of ASSE.

Other areas of the proposed rule that concern ASSE include hoisting and rigging; confusing equipment definitions such as for fall protection, competent person and ground conditions; concern that OSHA did not reference the national voluntary consensus standard with regard to use of different derricks; selection of manufacturer or employer procedures for assembly/disassembly and general requirements; power line safety; inspections; wire rope inspections; general requirements for signals; overall fall protection; work area control; operator qualification and certification; training; hoisting personnel; multiple-crane/derrick lifts; design, construction and testing; and overhead and gantry cranes.

The current OSHA safety standard for cranes and derricks was written in 1971. In July 2004, a 23-member industry and union OSHA advisory committee issued a recommendation that OSHA update its outdated standards on crane and derrick safety and proposed a revised standard, including specific rules on crane assembly.

Related Article

ASSE Requests Hearing on OSHA’s Proposed Crane Rule.

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