Following N.Y. Accident, OSHA Crane Regulation Moves Forward

During last week's press briefing to address safety initiatives, standards, and regulations in the wake of the recent U.S. tower crane accidents, it was announced that the proposed Cranes and Derricks Construction Standard, which has been under review by OSHA since 2004, has seen renewed movement through the agency.

“Just within the last 24 hours, we have learned that the draft standard has moved from OSHA to a peer review panel, then to the Office of Management and Budget where we believe it will be subject to review for 30 to 90 days,” said Bill Smith, president of NBIS Risk Management Services, who was a part of the five-person panel of association and private industry representatives speaking on behalf of the crane industry during the press conference in Washington.

Other panelists included Joel Dandrea, executive vice president of the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA); Graham Brent, executive director for the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO); Nick Yaksich, vice president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM); and Frank Bardonaro Jr., president and COO of AmQuip and chairman of the SC&RA tower crane task force.

Recent tower crane accidents have brought a heightened interest in the crane industry. In order to put these incidents in perspective, Dandrea offered the following statistics. “Tower cranes are a proven, reliable technology that have been used successfully in construction projects since the 1940s,” he said. “Of the more than 3,000 tower cranes in North America, about 2,100 are in use on any given day. With a conservative estimate of 50 lifts daily per crane, more than 105,000 lifts are executed safely every day.”

Likewise, Bardonaro referenced a recent study conducted by the University of Tennessee and partially funded by OSHA. He said the study “indicated that during a recent seven-year period, just 4.1 percent of all crane-related fatalities were attributed to tower crane incidents.”

According to Dandrea, the SC&RA has a history of taking an active role in establishing safe practices and standards for the crane industry. A recent example of this was the April 2008 creation of a Tower Crane Task Force. This group will review recent tower crane incidents, establish best practices to help prevent future accidents, and will work with legislation so that meaningful laws can be passed.

Referencing the crane industry's involvement in standards development and self-policing, Smith said, “Our industry, in my opinion, is very progressive with regard to regulations and standards.” In fact, it was a tower crane accident in San Francisco in 1989 that first spurred interest among members of the SC&RA to establish a crane operator certification program. That program eventually evolved into the NCCCO.

In its 13th year, the NCCCO has said it will launch certification programs for signal persons and riggers this year, and in 2009, it will begin certifying operators of knuckleboom cranes. In addition, NCCCO is currently in discussion with a state agency to develop written exams for crane inspectors.