The New OSHA Crane Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has passed the largest change for the regulation of cranes and crane operators since the original Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
OSHA took Crane and Derrick Standard 1926.550 and expanded it into 42 new sections, 1926.1400 through 1926.1441. The new OSHA regulations go into effect this month, with certain sections having up to a four-year, phase-in period.
Currently, the most talked-about regulation is for “Operator Qualifications and Certification,” which has a four-year, phase-in period (November 8, 2010 through November 8, 2014). Cranes with a maximum lift capacity of less than 2,000 lbs. are exempt. During the phase-in period, employers must ensure their operators can operate equipment safely and have been trained prior to operating the equipment.
Crane-operator certification (each crane operator must be certified individually) must be conducted through a nationally recognized accrediting agency or an audited employer program. An audited employer program must be developed by an accredited, crane-operator testing organization that’s audited periodically. The certification is not transferrable (an operator who leaves must be recertified by a new employer).
The crane operator’s employer must provide the qualification (audited employer program) or certification at no cost to the operators.
Some employers may choose to develop their own “in house” audited training and qualification program to keep competitors from trying to hire their crane operators. But the time requirement and expense to set up their own training and qualification program will be prohibitive for most.
The skills required for a “Competent Person” have been expanded to include not only the capability to identify existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, but also the authorization to take prompt, corrective measures to eliminate them.
Now, a “Qualified Person” must possess a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, and, by extensive knowledge, training and experience, successfully demonstrate the ability to solve/resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work or the project.
Requirements for equipment inspections have been expanded, not only in timing (shift, monthly and annual/comprehensive) and areas to be inspected, but as to who may conduct the inspection. A “Competent Person” can perform a “shift” or “monthly inspection,” but a “Qualified Person” must handle the annual/comprehensive inspection. The “Qualified Person” may determine if a specific deficiency constitutes a safety hazard that requires immediate corrective action, or isn’t yet a safety hazard and would need to be monitored by a monthly inspection.
Any equipment that’s been idle for three months or more must be inspected by a Qualified Person, in accordance to a monthly inspection. Surely, given our economy, this has become more prevalent.
“Power line” safety also has greatly expanded requirements. Most notably, if any part of the equipment, load line or load operated up to the equipment’s maximum working radius (not the anticipated working radius, but the equipment’s maximum radius), can get closer than 20 ft. to a power line, there are three options.
1. De-energize and ground the power line.
2. Maintain a 20-ft. clearance.
3. Conduct a planning meeting; erect and maintain elevated warning lines; have either a proximity alarm or a dedicated spotter with direct communication to the operator, or use an automatic warning device and automatic limiting device or an insulated link/device; and maintain minimum clearance distances using the OSHA Minimum Clearance Distances chart.
Expanded requirements also affect training operators and crew members, clearance below power lines, assembly and disassembly around power lines, traveling under power lines, etc.
Although cranes with a rated lift capacity of 2,000 lbs. or less are exempt from needing certified crane operators, they must still comply with most of the other new regulations. Power-line clearances, inspections (shift, monthly and annual), signals, fall protection, training of operators, etc., are all still employer requirements.
More than a dozen types of lifting equipment are exempt from this OSHA regulation (although they’re covered by other regulations): excavators; backhoes; automotive wreckers and tow trucks; digger derricks (used to auger holes for poles carrying electric and telecommunication lines); vehicle-mounted aerial devices for lifting personnel; mechanics’ trucks with hoisting devices used for equipment maintenance and repair, tree trimming and tree removal; and material delivery used only to deliver materials to a construction site (transfer material from truck to ground without arranging materials in a particular sequence).
Required safety devices on equipment now include: a crane-level indicator (which shows whether the crane has been properly leveled before beginning operations), boom stops (except for hydraulic booms, to prevent overextending the crane tubes), hydraulic outriggers with an integral holding device/check valve (to prevent the outriggers from moving, lowering etc. while the crane is in operation), a built-in horn or one on the equipment that’s immediately available to the operator (it could be a built-in, automotive- type horn and button or as simple as a handheld “boat” type horn). All the required safety devices must be in proper working order before operations may begin.
The required “operational aids” include:
• A boom-hoist limiting device or temporary limiting devices of either a boom-angle indicator or a clearly marked boom-hoist cable.
• An anti two-blocking device that automatically prevents damage from contact between the load block, overhaul ball and the boom tip, or a temporary alternative of clearly marking the cable to give the operator enough time to stop the hoist before contact of the ball and boom tip.
• A boom-angle or radius indicator readable from the operator’s area, or a temporary alternative for measuring the radii or boom angle.
• A boom-length indicator (for telescopic equipment) or a temporary alternative of measured marks on the boom to calculate boom length, measure boom extension or calculate boom length from boom angle or radius measurements. Cranes with a rated capacity of more than 6,000 lbs. must have either a load-weighing device, a load-moment indicator, a load-moment limiter or a temporary alternative for assessing load weight, as determined by an industry recognized source (manufacturer’s weight receipt, bill of lading, etc.) or by a calculation method recognized by the industry (12-in. steel pipe with a ½-in. wall thickness weighs 61.41 lbs. per foot times the length of the pipe).
Any person who will give “signals” to the crane operator must be qualified by either a third-party evaluator or the employer’s qualified evaluator. The signal person must know the type of signals used, have a basic understanding of equipment operation and limitations, and demonstrate they meet the requirements through an oral or written test, as well as a practical test. Signals may be by voice or audible (new signals can be used, but they must be as effective as hand, voice or audible signals). OSHA has designated the “standard method” of hand signals, which must be used.
The new regulations also expand upon “ground conditions” and who’s responsible to determine the ability of the ground to support the equipment. Responsibility for ground conditions initially is with the controlling entity for the project (the owner or jobsite superintendant), and, if no controlling entity is available, the requirement shifts to the crane operator’s employer.
The new regulations greatly expand requirements for tower cranes, derricks, floating cranes and land cranes on barges, overhead and gantry cranes, pile drivers and side booms.
As I worked on this article, a local construction-site accident with a crane resulted in one employee being killed and another one injured. It appeared that a falling jib section caused the accident.
Would the new regulations (in force and enforced) have prevented this tragic accident? Possibly, because the regulations specifically address assembly and disassembly operations, as well as who can be in the “fall zone.”
Will these new regulations eliminate all accidents with cranes? Probably not, because people make mistakes. However, if implemented, they can help reduce the potential for accidents and make a workplace area safer.
Will they increase operational costs for companies who own and operate cranes? Yes, but if managed properly, the cost can be kept at a reasonable level. And everyone will be required to comply with the same standards, which should put everyone on a “level playing field.”
Did I cover all the new crane and operator regulations? Not even close! It’s hard to review a 200-page document in just 1,500 words. I would recommend everyone go to OSHA’s website (www.osha.gov), download the new regulations and read them for yourself, to see how they will apply to you and your business.
Safety is in everyone’s best interest, and, as we say at my local volunteer fire department, “think safe, act safe, and at the end of the day, we all go home.” Be safe.
Darrel Wilkerson Jr. is vice president at Wilkie Mfg. LLC (Oklahoma City), which has been manufacturing cranes for more than 30 years.