OSHA’s Cranes and Derricks in Construction final rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget.  The rule was received by OMB on April 9, 2010, which means that OSHA could publish the rule by the end of July.  Construction employers who use cranes in their operations must prepare for what is sure to be a significant overhaul of OSHA’s rules for crane operations.

This final rule has been several years in the making.  It was developed by the Agency through negotiated rulemaking, whereby representatives of employers and organized labor work together with OSHA to develop a draft rule. Consensus was reached by the negotiated rulemaking committee in 2004 and the Agency has been preparing the rule ever since.

The proposal contained over 40 separate sections of detailed requirements in such areas as crane assembly, crane operation, inspections, and operator training and certification.  The most controversial provision in the proposed rule related to “Operator Qualification and Certification.” OSHA proposed that all crane operators be certified to operate a crane, principally by having the operators trained and tested by an “accredited” crane operator testing organization.  This provision alone was estimated by OSHA to cost employers $37.3 million.

Other key requirements proposed by the Agency included:

  • General contractors at construction worksites would be required to ensure that the ground at a worksite is firm, drained, and graded so that cranes used will have adequate support.
  • Employers operating cranes within 20 feet of power lines would be required to choose from a menu of different options to ensure the cranes do not strike energized lines, possibly injuring or killing employees. 
  • Employers would need to inspect cranes before every shift, once a month, and at least once a year.
  • All signal persons used in crane operations would need to be certified by a “qualified” evaluator, which the proposal defined as a person who has demonstrated that he or she is competent in accurately assessing whether the signal person understands the types of signals to be used, application of the signals, and crane operation and limitations, among other things.

While OSHA will allow employers time to come into compliance with the new requirements, construction employers should immediately review the final rule once it is published and start to make any necessary changes to their crane operations.