On January 26, 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published in the Federal Register a proposed new rule and notice of hearing related to cranes and derricks in construction.

Rumors of the proposed rule have been circulating in the press since September, and OSHA first published its proposal in October. OSHA is in the process of receiving public comment on the proposal before issuing a final rule.

Generally, the proposed rule seeks to standardize training and certification requirements of crane and derrick operators. OSHA summarizes the October proposal in this way:

[T]he rule would protect employees from the hazards associated with hoisting equipment when used to perform construction activities. Under this proposed rule, employers would first determine whether the ground is sufficient to support the anticipated weight of hoisting equipment and associated loads. The employer then would be required to assess hazards within the work zone that would affect the safe operation of hoisting equipment, such as those of power lines and objects or personnel that would be within the work zone or swing radius of the hoisting equipment. Finally, the employer would be required to ensure that the equipment is in safe operating condition via required inspections and employees in the work zone are trained to recognize hazards associated with the use of the equipment and any related duties that they are assigned to perform.

Some highlights of the proposed regulation include the requirement that employers ensure that their operators either (1) become certified by an accredited crane/derrick operator testing organization or (2) earn their qualifications from an audited employer program. The rule also requires operators to be trained in the following practices:

  • On friction equipment, whenever moving a boom off a support, first raise the boom a short distance (sufficient to take the load off the boom) to determine if the boom hoist brake needs to be adjusted. On other types of equipment, the same practice is applicable, except that typically there is no means of adjusting the brake. If the brake does not hold, a repair is necessary.
  • Where available, the manufacturer’s emergency procedures for halting unintended equipment movement.

The rule also issues new regulations for signal persons. Specifically, the rule requires that each signal person:

  • Know and understand the type of signals used. If hand signals are used, the signal person must know and understand the standard method for hand signals.
  • Be competent in the application of the type of signals used.
  • Have a basic understanding of equipment operation and limitations, including the crane dynamics involved in swinging and stopping loads and boom deflection from hoisting loads.
  • Know and understand the general requirements presented elsewhere in the rule.
  • Demonstrate that he/she meets these requirements through a verbal or written test and through a practical test.

The proposed rule contains more than 250 pages of text and provides different training and certification standards and requirements for crane and derrick operation in varying conditions. Employers wanting more detailed information regarding the proposed rule and its applicability to their specific employees and operations should consult with an attorney.