The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a new rule applicable to the use of cranes and derricks in construction that will replace the nearly 40-year-old existing rule. The new standard, effective November 8, 2010, is extensive and contains over 40 separate sections of detailed requirements. The new rule imposes significant regulations impacting various aspects of the use of cranes and derricks in construction including, but not limited to:

  • the types of equipment covered
  • personnel definitions
  • operator qualifications and certification
  • signal person qualifications
  • inspections
  • design, construction, assembly, disassembly and testing

The new rule aims directly at preventing the most common types of hazards related to cranes and derricks causing injury and deaths at construction worksites including electrocution, crushed-by/struck-by hazards during assembly or disassembly, collapse and overturning.

Scope of the New Rule

The new rule is broad in scope and applies to virtually “all power-operated equipment, when used in construction, that can hoist, lower and horizontally move a suspended load.” OSHA has provided a long list of equipment, and variations of that equipment, that fall within the scope of the new rule. The list includes carry-deck cranes, commercial truck mounted cranes, tower cranes, crawler cranes, boom trucks, and derricks. The rule expressly does not apply to such equipment as self-propelled elevating work platforms, power shovels, excavators and backhoes.

Key Duties Imposed on General Contractors and Construction Managers as Controlling Entities

The new OSHA rule imposes key duties for equipment and workplace safety on the “controlling entity” at the project even when the crane/derrick work is being performed by a subcontractor or someone other than the controlling entity. The term “controlling entity” is defined by the new rule as “an employer that is a prime contractor, general contractor, construction manager or any other legal entity which has the overall responsibility for the construction of the project, including its planning, quality and completion.” The new rule specifically delegates to the controlling entity responsibilities associated with ground conditions and work area control such as the following:

  • ensuring that the ground preparations necessary to meet the requirements of a “firm, drained and graded” site exist sufficient to support the equipment in use and its related materials
  • informing the equipment user and operator of the location of ground hazards beneath the equipment set-up area (such as voids, tanks and utilities) that are either identified in documents in the controlling entity’s possession, or the hazards that are otherwise known to the controlling entity
  • instituting a system to coordinate operations where the radii of multiple cranes/derricks may overlap

Where there is no “controlling entity” at the project, the employer or employers operating the equipment must undertake the above tasks. Importantly, the new rule expressly states that the duties of controlling entities are not limited to those specified above. OSHA explains that this cautionary language was inserted into the new rule to avoid any implication that the listing of certain duties placed on controlling entities by the new standard displaced the duties placed on controlling entities under OSHA’s “multi-employer” policy. The “multi-employer” policy permits multiple employers to be cited for a hazardous condition that violates an OSHA standard.

Operator Qualification and Certification

One of the most significant aspects of the new rule is the requirement that operators of most types of cranes be qualified or certified as set forth under the rule. Employers will have up to four years, until November 10, 2014, to ensure compliance, unless the operator is working in a city or state that has its own licensing or certification program. In that case, OSHA mandates compliance with the requirements of the city or state by November 8, 2010, provided that the city or state meets the minimum criteria set forth under the rule. Until the compliance deadline, employers must ensure that all operators are competent to operate the equipment safely and are trained and evaluated on that training before operating the equipment.

Also, the new rule requires employers to bear the costs associated with operator qualification and certification, and re-certification must be completed every five years.

Riggers and Signal Persons Must Be “Qualified”

While riggers and signal persons are not required to be certified, they must be “qualified” persons as defined under the rule. The rule provides several ways a rigger and signal person may be considered “qualified” for purposes of the rule.

Conclusion

The new OSHA rule for cranes and derricks used in construction is extensive and comprehensive. This alert only highlights certain limited provisions of the new rule, therefore, the actual language of the regulation should be reviewed carefully prior to developing new business practices and procedures. The final rule is available on the OSHA website at: http://www.osha.gov/FedReg_osha_pdf/FED20100809.pdf

We recommend that all industry firms conduct a thorough review of their training, inspection and operations policies and practices to ensure compliance with OSHA’s new rule and to identify potential actions and revisions needed to comply with and mitigate the effects of the new rule.