Cost of OSHA Crane Proposal Could Topple Businesses
In comments submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Jan. 22, NAHB voiced concern that a proposed rule for “Cranes and Derricks in Construction” would have a considerably adverse impact on the home building industry and push construction costs higher.
With housing activity now at record lows, the additional cost of complying with the proposal could be enough to put builders out of business, the association warned. Also, there is concern that OSHA has underestimated the costs of complying with the new rule.
The OSHA rule was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 9, 2008.
“The draft crane rule treats all construction the same way and doesn’t take into account the nature of the home building business, especially when it comes to the small or custom builder,” said Colin Campbell of Charleston, S.C., chairman of the NAHB Construction Safety and Health Committee.
In its comments, NAHB suggested regulatory alternatives that would be less complex and burdensome for home builders, while still upholding the safety and health of construction workers.
The three main requirements of the rule opposed by NAHB are:
- Overly restrictive crane operator qualification and certification
- Assigning responsibility for ensuring that ground conditions are sufficient to support a crane to “controlling entities” — including general contractors — who are not likely to have expertise in this area
- Forced compliance with manufacturers’ recommendations and manuals, which NAHB believes is unlawful
The proposed regulation would require crane operators to be certified by any crane operator testing organization approved by a nationally recognized accrediting agency; or by the employer's own qualification program, which must be audited by an approved testing organization.
The two options do not give employers enough flexibility to “self-qualify” their own crane operators, NAHB said, and employers’ current safety training programs, while suitable and adequate, would not meet the more stringent requirement imposed by the proposed rule.
NAHB believes that smaller cranes used in home building should be treated like forklifts and other similar equipment for which OSHA allows the employer to "ensure and certify the operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck [forklift] safely."
The proposal’s requirement for “controlling entities” to ensure that cranes are sufficiently stabilized and don’t tip over is unfair and risky, NAHB added, because general contractors and other job site managers are unlikely to have the necessary expertise in crane operation.
NAHB said that requiring employers to follow manufacturers’ recommendations is not legal because it gives a private entity oversight over a government regulation.
Other industry groups — including the Associated Builders and Contractors ABC) and the Associated General Contractors (AGC) — are also asking OSHA to revise the proposed regulations.
NAHB has actively monitored and participated in the revisions to the crane safety standard, which have been under development since 2003.
In 2004, OSHA's Cranes and Derricks Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee — which was responsible for revising the crane safety standard and finding a consensus on a new regulation — reached final agreement on the regulatory text of the standard. NAHB was represented on the committee by home builder Craig Steele, a member of the HBA of Central Arizona.
NAHB members will testify at OSHA’s informal public hearings on the proposal on March 17 in Washington, D.C.
For more information, e-mail Rob Matuga at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8507.