The new rule, which has been in the works for years and replaces a decades-old standard, will be published in the Federal Register Aug. 9. It will go into effect 90 days later, on Nov. 8. Approximately 267,000 construction, crane rental and crane certification establishments employing about 4.8 million workers will be affected by the rule, OSHA said.
“The goal of this standard is to prevent worker fatalities and injuries by keeping cranes, loads and workers in the places they are meant to be,” OSHA Administrator David Michaels said in a July 28 press conference. He added that the agency expects the new standard will save $55 million a year.
The previous rule, which dated back to 1971, was based on 40-year-old standards. Stakeholders from the construction industry recognized the need to update the safety requirements, methods and practices for cranes and derricks, and to incorporate technological advances in order to provide improved protection for those who work on and around cranes and derricks.
“The significant number of fatalities associated with the use of cranes in construction led the Labor Department to undertake this rulemaking,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “After years of extensive research, consultation and negotiation with industry experts, this long overdue rule will address the leading causes of fatalities related to cranes and derricks, including electrocution, boom collapse and overturning.”
One of the standard’s most significant changes is the requirement for crane operators to be qualified and certified, as outlined in outlined in 1926.1427. Other employees working around cranes, such as riggers and signal persons, must be qualified.
“We expect that everybody that works on the crane or derrick is properly trained and therefore can do the things they need to do correctly,” Michaels said.
While the rule goes into effect Nov. 8, employers have up to 4 years to ensure their crane operators are certified.
In addition to certification requirements, the new rule is designed to prevent the leading causes of fatalities, including electrocution, crushed-by/struck-by hazards during assembly/disassembly, collapse and overturn. It sets requirements for ground conditions and crane operator assessment. The rule also addresses tower crane hazards, addresses the use of synthetic slings for assembly/disassembly work, and clarifies the scope of the regulation by providing both a functional description and a list of examples for the equipment that is covered.
A Complex Standard
In 2003, the Secretary of Labor appointed 23 experienced Cranes and Derricks Advisory Committee members representing manufacturers and trade associations, who met 11 times until a consensus on the regulatory text was reached in July 2004. The proposed rule was published Oct. 9, 2008, and the public was invited to submit comments until Jan. 22, 2009. Public hearings were held in March 2009, and the public comment period on those proceedings closed in June 2009. OSHA staff incorporated input from the public comments and testimony to develop the final regulatory text.
When asked why the standard-setting process took so long for this rule, Michaels had two explanations.
“It was a very complex standard and we really tried to involve parties from all aspects of the field and had a great deal of comments and input from different stakeholders and stakeholder groups,” he said. “[And] frankly, there were a number of years when standard setting was not given a high priority by the other administration … When Solis came in with new leadership team, we were able to then move quickly, given all the steps to issue a standard.”
“I’m very proud of this new standard,” Michaels added. “On behalf of OSHA, we think it’s a big step forward in protecting workers.”