There are approximately 22 fatalities and 175 injuries related to cranes each year. And despite advances in equipment technology and techniques, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has not significantly revised its crane rules and safety standards for more than four decades.
Based on recommendations from OSHA’s Advisory Committee of construction experts, a new rule is scheduled to take effect this November. Employers have been scrambling to make sure their crane operators are properly certified in accordance with the impending regulations.
What Are the Big Changes for Crane Operators?
Not counting minor amendments in 1988 and 1993, OSHA’s rule for Cranes and Derricks has not been altered since it was published in 1971! To state the obvious, the world of construction and heavy equipment has changed a bit since then.
Based on information about workplace accidents and injuries that have taken place, these are the big differences between the old rule and the new rule:
- Starting November 10, 2014, construction crane operators are required to be qualified or certified. There are four options for qualification/certification: certification by an accredited crane operator testing organization, qualification by an audited employer program, qualification by the U.S. military, or licensing by a state or local government entity.
- New requirements are being introduced to protect workers from known hazards, like power lines and unanticipated movement of crane components that have led to workers being struck or crushed.
- Pre-assembly requirements are being introduced, such as making sure the ground can support the equipment, and inspecting crane components before assembly to make sure parts weren’t damaged during transportation.
Who Is Affected Under the New Rule?
By November 10th, all crane operators must be certified or qualified, except for operators of derricks, sideboom cranes or equipment rated at 2,000 pounds or less (keep in mind that other OSHA requirements may apply to these individuals).
Obviously employers who use cranes in their construction work and companies who lease cranes with operators must comply. But even employers who have cranes on their construction sites, who aren’t directly responsible for the operation of those cranes, are responsible for violations that affect their workers. About these employers, OSHA says, “they need to address the requirements of the standard that may affect their employees” (source).
There are 22 states or territories that have their own OSHA-approved state plans for crane operation. They, like everyone else, are required to adopt the new standard.
Where to Go for Certification
Though crane operators can be certified or qualified in four different ways, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) expects most operators to take advantage of the first option: certification by a nationally accredited crane operator testing organization.
OSHA directs employers and operators to the websites of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and the American National Standards Institute to identify accredited programs. The NCCCO is one of them.
Controversy Surrounding Changes
The new rule includes a demanding requirement: crane operators must be certified for a specific type and capacity of crane. If an operator’s certification does not specify type and capacity, it isn’t valid.
Workers can operate cranes with a lower capacity than their certification lists, but not a higher capacity. According to OSHA, “an operator certified for a 100-ton hydraulic crane may operate a 50-ton hydraulic crane but not a 200-ton hydraulic crane” (source).
The industry has been buzzing about this requirement, some saying the rule must change. Early last year, OSHA scheduled informal stakeholders meetings in Washington D.C. to gather feedback “on the usefulness of certifying operators for different capacities of cranes, and the risks of allowing an operator to operate all capacities of cranes within a specific type” (source).
Will the Deadline Be Extended?
Based on concerns about qualification and certification requirements, in February 2014, OSHA proposed extending the new standard deadline to November 10, 2017. The agency invited public comments, which were due by March 12, 2014. OSHA has yet to announce whether the extension will happen or not, creating uncertainty for employers and operators.
Photos via Flickr CC, courtesy of Ron Cogswell, Michael Pereckas and Steve Guttman.