The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB
By Rod Smith, Pat Miller and Matt Morrison, Sherman and Howard
By any measure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) long-awaited final rule on crane and derricks in construction, with most provisions set to go into effect on Nov. 8 and other to follow in one to four years, is a blockbuster.
Published in the Federal Register on Aug. 9, the rule and its accompanying comments comprise 271 pages of fine print and establish comprehensive new requirements for assembly/disassembly, assessment of ground conditions, certification and qualification of crane operators and working near power lines, to name a few.
OSHA estimates that the rule will cover 267,000 workplaces and 4.8 million workers.
All employers who are engaged in any aspect of construction are urged to familiarize themselves with the new rule and to determine, as a first step, what provisions apply to their operations and equipment.
Employers should not assume the rule only applies to crane contractors or specialized cranes used in construction. To the contrary, the new rule applies to a wide range of employers — including some property owners — and a wide range of equipment.
Understanding and implementing these new requirements in 90 days will be no small task, especially for employers unfamiliar with crane operations.
The new rule applies to, “power-operated equipment, when used in construction, that can hoist, lower and horizontally move a suspended load.” The new rule does not apply to cranes or crane operations in general industry.
Despite this broad definition, the new crane rule also does not apply to all equipment that can “hoist, lower and horizontally move a suspended load.” It contains numerous exemptions for equipment — such as excavators and backhoes.
However, many of those exemptions contain important qualifications. For example, forklifts are exempt from coverage except when they are configured with a boom to move a suspended load with a winch or hook.
The use of articulating/knuckle boom truck cranes to deliver materials to a construction site also is exempt when the materials are transferred to the ground. It is not exempt, however, when the same boom truck is used to put the materials in a particular sequence to be hoisted, when the materials are supported or stabilized by the boom truck during construction or when the boom truck delivers prefabricated components such as roof trusses.
The rule also provides many other examples of exempt and covered equipment.
As previously mentioned, the new rule applies not only to users, operators and manufacturers of cranes but also to other employers.
In one of its more controversial provisions, the new rule now specifies the duties and responsibilities of the “controlling entity” — defined as “the 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, its planning, quality and completion.”
Other legal entities under the rule could include property owners who assume the responsibility for construction of the project.
The specified duties for “controlling entities” also are not insignificant. They include:
- Ensuring that ground conditions to support the crane equipment are sufficient
- Informing users and operators of the crane of any hazards beneath the setup area — such as tanks or utilities — either known or identified in documents in the possession of controlling entity
- Implementing a system to coordinate multiple cranes where the working radius of one crane is within the working radius of others
However, the duties and responsibilities of a “controlling entity” may actually be much broader than those specified above.
In the rule, and in comments that accompanied the proposed rule, OSHA makes it clear that the “controlling entity” duties specified in the crane rule supplement, but do not displace, the responsibilities of “controlling contractors” under OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy.
As a result, in addition to the specified duties in the new rule, OSHA may attempt to hold general contractors, home builders and other “controlling contractors” — now referred to as “controlling entities” — responsible for using reasonable care in detecting and correcting other crane hazards.
The multi-employer policy could make matters more difficult for employers who lack the expertise to evaluate crane safety.
Various industry groups and safety organizations are expected to provide guidance and training seminars before the rule goes into effect.
For a copy of the new crane rule posted in the Federal Register, click here.
More information on the new crane rule is available on OSHA’s website, www.osha.gov, by searching under “cranes.”
Rod Smith, Pat Miller and Matt Morrison are members of the Labor & Employment Law Department of the Sherman and Howard practicing in the areas of occupational safety and health law. They routinely appear before the federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and state occupational safety and health boards. For more information, visit the Sherman and Howard website; or e-mail Smith, Miller or Morrison.
In an effort to increase job site safety and reduce the chance of job related accidents, NAHB has produced the “Fall Protection Video, English-Spanish” and “NAHB-OSHA Fall Protection Handbook, English-Spanish.”
Both are available through BuilderBooks.com.
The 30-minute “Fall Protection Video, English-Spanish” can be used by builders to train workers to use safe work practices that eliminate fall hazards and comply with OSHA fall-protection standards.
The “NAHB-OSHA Fall Protection Handbook, English-Spanish” provides guidelines for creating a written fall-protection plan and identifying safe work practices that can prevent costly accidents and injuries. Written with clear text, photographs and illustrations, the book serves as a user-friendly resource for promoting safety on any job site.
To purchase the handbook and video online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.