After more than four years of delay and under pressure from Congress and the industry, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration published its long-awaited proposed standard for crane and derrick safety on October 9th. It is the next step in securing nationwide, standardized requirements for the use of cranes on construction sites.

The proposed rule includes safety measures for crane and derrick inspection, assembly/disassembly, safety devices and signals, crane operation near power lines and ground conditions. Once final, it will affect approximately 96,000 construction cranes in the United States. Two thousand tower cranes would be subject to revised regulations in erecting/dismantling and operation safety. You can read the proposal in the Federal Register.

The Causes of Crane Incidents
198 (39%)
Crane assembly/disassembly
58 (12%)
Boom bucking/collapse
41 (8%)
Crane upset/overturn
37 (7%)
Rigging failure
36 (7%)
22 (4%)
Struck by moving load
22 (4%)
Accidents related to lifts
21 (4%)
Working within swing radius of counterweight
17 (3%)
11 (2%)
Hoist limitations
7 (1%)
Other causes
32 (6%)

A significant area of construction that the proposed standard addresses is training and certification. Currently, only 15 states require crane operators to be certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). The proposed rule would specify certification requirements for all crane operators nationwide. Under the new standard, crane operators must be certified via an accredited third party testing organization, an audited employer testing program, the U.S. military or the state or local licensing authority. Training is also required for signalpersons and riggers.

“Any time you can improve the knowledge of workers through training, it is a step in the right direction,” says Travis Parsons, Senior Safety and Health Specialist for the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. “It is critical that crane operators, signalpersons and riggers have open channels of communication, be able to recognize hazards and give clear signals.”

The proposed rule comes as crane safety has gained national attention. High-profile accidents in New York City, Miami and several other U.S. cities have killed more than 20 workers – some of whom were Laborers (for more information, read Concerns Heighten Over Crane Safety. While many of the crane accidents that made headlines were crane collapses, electrocution is statistically the highest cause of crane incidents (see the side bar). Several states, most recently North Carolina, have adopted state crane safety standards to protect both workers and the public.

OSHA is accepting public comments until December 8th. Check for updates on the status of this standard.

For more information on occupational safety and health, visit the Fund’s website at or call (202) 628-5465.

[Jennifer E. Jones]