OSHA Update: Increased Crane Requirements to Ensure Safe Operation
By Carly Miller, Bradley
The skylines of most large U.S. cities are scattered with cranes and large-scale equipment as urban development continues. Operation of a large crane on any construction or industrial project carries risks that must be appropriately mitigated to avoid accidents, injuries, property damage, and inevitably, liability.
According to OSHA, there are approximately 125,000 cranes in use at construction sites around the country, as well as an additional 80,000 to 100,000 in general and maritime industries. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, there are an average of 71 crane fatalities each year. The most common causes of crane accidents include rigging failures, mechanical failures, overturning, unsafe conditions of the crane, dropping heavy materials, colliding with power lines, and failures in following safety protocols. Because crane activities usually occur in urban areas, unsafe crane operations present a risk, not only to workers, but to the general public.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published a final rule clarifying certification requirements for crane operators and requiring employers to ensure that operators receive the proper training necessary to safely operate the equipment. Employers should ensure, as we begin 2019, that they are following all updated requirements. The final rule became effective on December 9, 2018 with certain of the rule’s requirements becoming effective February 7, 2019. The full text of the final rule can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/federalregister/2017-11-09.
The new rule requires that employers not only ensure that their crane operators are properly certified or licensed, but also that they train all crane operators based on the specific job or task to which they are assigned. For example, operators must receive specific training for new equipment, based on the type and capacity of the crane that they may be operating. Employers must also engage in regular performance evaluations for crane operators.
In the summer of 2018, leading up to the recently issued final rule, OSHA cited and proposed $155,000 in penalties against a Missouri-based contractor for exposing its employees to conditions which led to serious injuries on a New York City construction worksite after an unsecured mini-crane overturned and fell four stories seriously injuring two ironworkers. OSHA found that the contractor was not ensuring that the employee assigned to operate the crane was trained, evaluated, and determined competent to operate the equipment; was operating the crane in excess of its rated lifting capacity; and did not verify that the load being lifted was within the crane’s rated lifting capacity.
In connection with the crane accident, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office also announced an indictment of the project manager and superintendent on criminal charges in connection with the incident. The contractor agreed to retain an independent monitor, enhance safety training for its workers, and fund public service announcements to educate workers after New York about their right to a safe workplace.
This unfortunate crane accident in New York serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of improper crane operation and inadequately trained personnel. OSHA’s final rule is an attempt to turn contractors’ focus back to safety for the protection of construction workers and the general public, as well as property and equipment. As such, contractors should re-familiarize themselves with all crane-related regulations, including OSHA’s recent final rule, as they begin a new year of construction projects.