There are many hazards associated with crane operations; make safety concerns a top priority. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Drilling Co.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issuing a new rule addressing the use of cranes and derricks in construction, which will replace a decades-old standard. Approximately 267,000 construction, crane rental and crane-certification establishments – employing about 4.8 million workers – will be affected by the new rule, which is effective beginning Nov. 8.

“The significant number of fatalities associated with the use of cranes in construction led the Labor Department to undertake this rulemaking,” says 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.”

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 rule addresses critically important provisions for crane operator certification, and crane inspection, set-up and disassembly,” explains Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels. “Compliance with the rule will prevent needless worker injuries and death, and provide protection for the public and property owners.”

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 also sets requirements for ground conditions and crane operator assessment. In addition, the rule 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.

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.

This new standard will comprehensively address key hazards related to cranes and derricks on construction worksites, including the four main causes of worker death and injury – electrocution, crushed by parts of the equipment, struck-by the equipment/load, and falls.

Significant requirements in this new rule include:
  • a pre-erection inspection of tower crane parts;

  • use of synthetic slings in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions during assembly/disassembly work;

  • assessment of ground conditions;

  • qualification or certification of crane operators; and

  • procedures for working in the vicinity of power lines.
This final standard is expected to prevent 22 fatalities and 175 non-fatal injuries each year.

The regulation text is available