Crane and boom safety: New regs you need to know

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Crane and boom safety

On many worksites, cranes and booms are a regular fixture–operating as workers complete their daily tasks and passers-by continue on their way. While they are a familiar sight and typically pose no threat to safety when operated correctly, accidents can and do happen.

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In February 2016 one such accident occurred, making national headlines, when a crane collapsed, killed one individual and injured three others in New York City. According to the New York Times, months later, the crane’s operator was found responsible for the accident having “lowered the boom of the crane at an improper angle, causing the crane to become unstable.”

In order to reduce the frequency of tragic accidents like this one associated with the use of cranes, booms, and derricks, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) proposed changes to clarify and permanently extend an employer’s ongoing duty to evaluate their operators’ abilities to safely operate assigned equipment. The history of these changes started in August 2010, when OSHA issued the final Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard (29 CFR 1926, Subpart CC). This standard called for crane operators to be “certified” or “qualified”, depending on the rated lifting capacity of the crane. After a number of delays, the rule became fully effective on April 15th of this year.

The original intent  of the changes was to further clarify OSHA’s position that an employee or contractor is qualified to operate a particular piece of equipment only if he or she is certified for that type and capacity of equipment. OSHA took a three-pronged approach in their revision of the standard. First, they clarified each employer’s “duty to ensure the competency of crane operators through training, certification or licensing, and evaluation.” Secondly, they expanded a provision that required different levels of certification based on the rated lifting capacity of equipment. Third, they established the operator competency standard. If an employer fails to implement these changes, an OSHA inspector can cite the business for the violation.

Over the years, OSHA has made great strides in providing more user-friendly explanations of the rules via their website. This said, there remains some confusion. OSHA sets up their regulations by industry classifications. OSHA (29 CFR 1910) covers “general industry” (e.g. four-walled factories, warehouses, etc.), while 29 CFR 1926 covers construction.

So, which standard covers companies such as truss manufacturers or building material dealers? The short answer is perhaps all of them.

Unless located near water or docks, typically, field operations are covered under the construction standard. The standards that cover cranes and derricks in various industries can be found at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/cranehoistsafety/standards.html. Here, you will find language related to crane operator training, certification and licensing, and competency.

Specifically, new changes to the OSHA standard include:

• Guidance for power-operated equipment, when used in construction that can hoist, lower, and horizontally move a suspended load.

• General requirements for operators, including training and certification.

• Updated exemptions to include operators of derricks, sideboom cranes, or equipment with a maximum manufacturer-rated hoisting/lifting capacity of 2,000 lbs.

So, what are the primary points of the changes when it comes to delivering material – those that impact lumber and building material dealers?  The major change is that operators of truck-mounted booms/cranes are required to be certified unless they are placing or stacking material onto the ground. Further, when transferring material onto a structure, the crane must:

• Be equipped with a fork or cradle assembly, as well as a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device.

• Be only used to transfer sheet goods or packaged goods with some exceptions.

• Not be used to hold, support, or stabilize the material in a way that facilitates construction.

In addition to OSHA’s guidance, private industry best practices are available for employers to consult from the American National Standards Institute and American Society of Safety Professionals (ANSI/ASSP Z490.1, ANSI/ASSP A10.28, and ANSI/ASSP A10.31).

With these standards, OSHA’s intent is to create a safe environment and prevent injuries during construction activities. If crane or boom operators are not certified or qualified, a lumber and building material dealer can be cited for non-compliance. Therefore, it is critical that boom and crane operators only perform the delivery of materials, and not use their equipment to move the materials from the delivery point to anywhere else on the construction site.

Finally, PLM offers resources on a host of safety topics at https://www.plmins.com/loss-control/.  For more information, contact one of PLM’s Loss Control Managers, Jeff Hendershot at jhendershot@plmins.com or 267-403-0875, or Dan Braiman at dbraiman@plmins.com or 267-825‑9402.

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