Washington Crane Safety Rules to Become Law

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Washington's Gov. Chris Gregoire confirmed that she approves of the crane safety bills that were introduced and passed through the Washington Legislature, following the tower crane accident in Bellevue, Wash., last fall. A signing date has not been set, but once it is signed, the law will take effect in 2010.

Under the bill, the state would play a much larger role in ensuring that tower cranes are secure in their foundations and being operated properly. The measure also would establish a safety program within the state Department of Labor and Industries, as well as create 11 new positions.

To date, 14 states require crane operator certification with new laws pending in several other states. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, what makes Washington's measure different is that it would certify both operators and cranes, requiring state approval to erect the structures. California appears to the only other state with such a law, said Graham Brent, executive director of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.

In addition to certification, the Washington measure also mandates regular safety inspections and testing of the structures. L&I will keep records on when cranes were inspected, as it does for maritime cranes.

The measure, which had labor union support, faced some opposition because of a requirement for "up to 2,000 hours of documented crane operator experience." Some lawmakers worried that crane operators would face stricter standards than obtaining a pilot's license, which requires at least 35 hours in the air plus ground school.

"It's totally out of reason. There's no way in the world that the industry itself can live with the hours," Gary Neal, a senior manager at Coast Crane Co., told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He added that the measure also would require that apprentice operators learn from veterans, which could exacerbate a crane operator shortage.