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Recent Becht News

Joe Collins, Heavy Lift Manager

Are You In Compliance? 

On July 28, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a historic new standard, addressing the use of cranes and derricks in construction and replacing a decades old standard. The rule became effective 90 days after August 9, 2010; the date the final rule was published in the federal register.

OSHA developed the new rule using a process known as Negotiated Rule Making. A committee was formed, comprising of twenty-three members, all of which were considered experts on cranes and derricks. The committee represented various interest groups such as crane manufacturers, crane owners and users, insurance, organized labor, power-line owners, professional safety organizations and OSHA.

It was my honor to be selected to represent crane users as a committee member. The committee had a demanding schedule of twelve one-week meetings over the course of one year to complete the final draft of a new safety standard for cranes and derricks.

The thirty seven year old standard consisted of about four typed pages and referenced the ASME B30.5 standard from the year 1968. The new standard is close to two hundred pages. It is comprehensive and takes new technologies into consideration. The challenge of writing a standard such as this is to allow for new technologies that will certainly be developed over the next thirty years. It was a goal of the committee to make the new standard "one stop shopping" by eliminating references and making it a stand alone rule where one could go to a single source and actually find out what to do.

The final draft created much controversy within the industry. The most controversial issue was the requirement for all crane operators to be "certified by an accredited organization". Previously, crane operators needed only to be qualified by the employer and the procedure was ambiguous and unclear. Everyone was doing it differently. A few states required certification and they were all different from each other as well. The committee realized the need for a standardized method of measuring the knowledge and skills of crane operators nationwide. The motion for mandatory certification almost died on the table when it was time for a final vote. If any three members were in dissent the motion failed. At voting, two members were in dissent and my constituency urged me to vote no. I voted yes and certification passed. Industry feared the requirement for certification would be costly and at that time only one organization was accredited to certify operators. OSHA contended that with the implementation of the certification requirement, reputable companies would emerge and competition would control cost. This, in fact, has happened. Currently there are four accredited organizations and several others have applied and are awaiting approval. The cost for an operator to become certified today is less than .03% of the cost a 1.5 million dollar crane or around $500. According to the standard there is a four-year phase in period to become certified and at the time of this writing, one year has passed.

Other significant changes include the requirement to "qualify" signalpersons and riggers. There are requirements for crane assembly/disassembly workers to be qualified and work from manufacturers written instructions. A qualified "Lift Director" is now required for all lifts. To become qualified one must be able to document specific training and demonstrate that knowledge through skills assessment. Crane inspectors and service persons are included in the qualification requirements.

Power-line contact has contributed to more serious injuries and fatalities than all other crane related accidents combined. The new rule extends the minimum distance to a power-line from 10 feet to 20 feet up to 350 kV and 50 feet for lines over 350kV. In addition to the increase in minimum distance, the power-line rule requires that layers of protection be put in place when working near power-lines. The layers consist of a list of requirements that, depending on the site conditions, the crane user has a choice of several layers to implement. In certain conditions the entire list must be put in place.

The preceding is only a snapshot of the complexity of the new rule and a short story of how it came into existence. If you have not reviewed the new standard, it is likely that you are not in compliance. The rule can be found on the Internet at osha.gov and is available for free. Due to overwhelming requests, interpretations are being written by OSHA and will be published on their web site soon.

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