- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a new crane safety rule that would introduce new factors to be used in determining the competency of operators and hand back to employers the responsibility of making sure operators are qualified, according to an agency statement.
- The new rule, which should cover about 100,000 crane operators, would eliminate the requirement that operators be certified based on rated lifting capacity of equipment, an unenforced provision with which a segment of the industry strongly disagreed. There is no mention of removing the requirement that operators be tested on crane type.
- OSHA's preliminary estimate of the total annual cost of compliance with the new rule is $1.6 million. OSHA estimates a large, one-time cost savings of roughly $25.5 million by removing the requirement that crane operators be certified by capacity, "because that change would eliminate the need for a very large number of operators to get an additional certification," the agency said in its proposal. The agency is accepting public comments on the proposed regulation until June 20.
Last November, OSHA issued a rule delaying compliance with new crane safety regulations until Nov. 10, 2018, giving the agency time to consider its requirements for certification and to put together a revision if necessary.
The sheer size of many cranes makes operating them and working around them more dangerous than many other construction activities, as those nearby risk being crushed under tons of steel if one happens to fail.
After an eight-year reprieve from crane accidents, New York City took center stage in February 2016 when a construction crane collapsed and killed one pedestrian near a Manhattan project site. Winds had been gusting relatively high, and the crawler crane toppled over as the operator tried to lower the boom into a safer position.
This accident prompted a renewed focus on crane safety in New York City. OSHA's rulemaking process for operator certification was already underway.
Cranes and the potential damage they can inflict once again took center stage last summer as Hurricane Irma approached Miami. There were more than two dozen cranes in use throughout Miami, and there was not enough time to lower them before the storm hit. Some crane booms made contact with nearby buildings, but, fortunately, wind speeds were lower than expected and the city was spared significant damage.