The 89 lives lost every year are proof that regulations pertaining to crane and derrick operation need to be updated.  At long last, they will be.

A new OSHA final rule takes effect November 8. That is when OSHA standard 1926.1400 replaces 1926.550. The new language is expected to improve jobsite safety for Laborers who work on the ground around this equipment. In crane accidents, ground workers, rather than the operators, are the ones most likely to be injured or killed.

OSHA estimates that the new rule affects approximately 268,000 construction and crane rental companies and crane certification organizations. That amounts to about 4.8 million workers. In reaction to the technological advances of recent years, one of the most significant changes is the requirement that crane operators be certified.  Additionally, Laborers and other workers who serve as riggers and signal persons must be qualified through an employer’s qualified evaluator or through an accredited certification body. Accredited courses are available at LIUNA Training and Education Funds centers all over the country.

Significant numbers of fatalities associated with crane and derrick mishaps in recent years – nine in New York City alone in 2008, from two crane collapses that occurred just weeks and blocks apart – led the new rule finally to fruition. It replaces one dating back to 1971. With the stricter standard in place, OSHA anticipates 22 fewer deaths a year and a decrease of 175 non-fatal injuries.

At the July webchat announcing the new rule, David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said the standard will save $55 million a year.

Leading causes of crane and derrick-related fatalities that disproportionately affect Laborers include electrocution, struck-by and caught-in-between hazards both in daily operations and during assembly/disassembly, collapse or overturn. The victims of falls from cranes are usually operators.

A key change in 1926.1400 pertains to the electrocution hazard, which accounts for 27 percent of crane fatalities. Ironically, most of the victims are ground workers in the vicinity of the crane and not the operators who are in insulated cabs. The new standard stipulates that, in general, the crane must be at least 20 feet away from a power line, twice as far as under the current regulation.

Other major requirements include pre-erection inspection of tower crane parts, use of synthetic slings in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions during assembly/disassembly and assessment of ground conditions. Detailed explanations and descriptions of all equipment covered by the rule are also included in the regulation.

Compliance and training materials related to the new standard will be available in the coming weeks at all OSHA Regional and Area offices. [Update: OSHA has posted a Frequently Asked Questions page as well as two fact sheets: Assembly and Disassembly and Subpart CC.] A summary of the standard as relates to Laborers has been developed by the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Scott Schneider (see link at top). As noted, LIUNA Training already has a course and materials in place. The LHSFNA will also monitor implementation of the standard and its effects on Laborers and signatory contractors as the new standard works its way into the construction industry.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]