OSHA Publishes Final Rule Limiting VTLs to Two Empty Containers

On Dec. 10, OSHA published a final rule in the Federal Register revising the Longshoring and Marine Terminals Standards (29 CFR Parts 1918 and 1917) to permit vertical tandem lifts (VTLs) of no more than two empty containers. The rule takes effect April 9, 2009.

A VTL is the practice of lifting two or more containers, one on top of the other, via a crane for cargo transport in the maritime industry. The containers are connected by a semi-automatic twistlock (SATL) interbox connector.

OSHA’s new provisions provide safe work procedures that include engineering, work practice and administrative controls for lifting no more than two empty containers connected by interbox connecters. The rule requires that the interbox connectors “are sufficiently strong so that they withstand, without failure, the forces that may be imposed during a VTL.” The rule also contains provisions for interbox connector inspections.

In addition, the final rule requires that VTLs are performed by shore-based gantry cranes or cranes that are specifically designed to handle containers, control unintended rotation around an axis and handle VLT load volume and wind sail potential.

According to OSHA, this final rule will reduce the risk of worker injury or death, which could result if VTLs are conducted without safety precautions.

“Without regulation, the Agency believes that employers would have an economic incentive to lift larger loads in VTLs, either by lifting loaded containers or by lifting more than two vertically coupled containers at the same time, thus reducing the safety factor to unacceptable values and causing a significant risk,” the rule read.

The April 9, 2009 effective date provides employers with 120 days to establish procedures required by the standard and train their employees.

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