OSHA Issues Comprehensive Crane Safety Rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule covering the use of cranes and derricks in construction. The new standard includes detailed requirements relating to the safe operation of cranes and derricks and new mandates regarding crane assembly, operation, and inspections. It also outlines new operator training and certification requirements. Nearly all the requirements became effective November 8, 2010. Delayed effective dates, ranging from one to four years, apply to some provisions.

Equipment Covered by the New Rule

Almost all power-operated equipment used to hoist, lower, and horizontally move a suspended load is covered under the new rule. Exceptions include:

  • Aerial lifts.
  • Forklifts, except when they are used to raise, lower, and horizontally move a suspended load through the use of a hook or winch.
  • Articulating/knuckle-boom truck cranes when used for material delivery and transfer purposes from the truck crane to the ground. They will not be excluded from the rule when they are used to hold, support, or stabilize any material, or when the material is a prefabricated component, a component of a systems-engineered metal building, or a structural steel member.

Certification and Qualification of Operators

OSHA’s new rule mandates that operators of most types of cranes be certified before operating any equipment covered under the rule. Employers must pick up any costs involved in training employees to become qualified and certified crane operators. City or state crane licensing requirements must meet the rule’s minimum criteria.

Employers that do business in areas without licensing requirements can certify that their operators meet OSHA’s requirements in one of two ways. Employees can be certified by a nationally recognized accredited crane operator testing agency. Alternatively, employers can qualify operators through their own testing program. Any such employer-sponsored program must use tests developed by an accredited crane operator testing agency or approved by an auditor who is certified by an accredited crane operator testing organization.

Other Important Requirements

In addition to the certification and qualification requirements, the new rule imposes several important requirements on all companies that use cranes and derricks.

Ground Conditions: Contractors must carefully inspect ground conditions before assembling and using a crane. Surface areas on which the crane will stand must be firm, drained, and properly graded.

Assembly: Employers must use a qualified rigger for rigging operations during the assembly and disassembly of the crane.

Inspections: Cranes and derricks must be inspected when:

  • The equipment has had modifications or additions that affect its safe operation.
  • The equipment was repaired or adjusted in ways that relate to its safe operation.
  • The equipment has been completely assembled.
  • Each shift starts (with additional monthly and annual inspections).
  • The severity of use or conditions creates the reasonable probability of damage.

Action Plan

The new rule’s more than 1,000 pages of regulations are complex. Contractors need to determine the impact on their operations and develop an action plan for compliance. Industry organizations, as well as crane manufacturers and lessors, may be able to offer advice and strategies for compliance.