OSHA Moving Forward With Construction Crane Rule Changes

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Dec. 2 — Changes to OSHA regulations for construction cranes are the focus of three rulemakings moving forward in 2017, agency officials told building industry representatives this week.

Over two days of meetings with the agency’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, much of the discussion concerned updating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s crane rule issued in 2010 (29 C.F.R. Subpart CC).

The proposed revisions are a mix changes sought by crane operators and owners, clarifications OSHA wants to make and revisions OSHA agreed to as part of court settlement.

Certified, Qualified?

Dean McKenzie, head of OSHA’s Directorate of Construction, said Nov. 30 that the notice of proposed rulemaking defining OSHA’s requirements for certification and qualification of crane operators (RIN:1218-AC96) could be published as early as January, following a review by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

“Nobody wants this out more than we do,” McKenzie told the committee.

McKenzie didn’t say what specific changes the rulemaking would propose.

OSHA faces a Nov. 10, 2017, deadline to issue a final rule. If the rulemaking isn’t completed by then, the agency will have to again extend the operator certification deadline.

OSHA agreed in 2013 to reconsider requirements for operator certification by third-party evaluators and operator qualification after crane industry representative said the 2010 crane rule requirements weren’t what was envisioned by a panel of industry and OSHA representatives as it drafted the rule in 2003 and 2004.

OSHA officials interpreted the rule as requiring operators to be certified not only for the type of crane—such as a tower crane or hydraulic crane—but also by the lifting capacity of the crane. For example, an operator certified to control a hydraulic crane would need separate certifications for hydraulic cranes with different weight capacities.

While industry representatives agree that type certification is needed, most have objected to capacity certification, saying it would add expenses not envisioned by the rulemaking panel, tie up cranes for certification tests instead of being at building sites and take operators away from projects.

The industry representatives also questioned why OSHA considered an operator to be “qualified” if the operator was only certified. An operator who is certified has only met basic requirements to operate a crane, whereas employers contend designating an operator as qualified will involve additional in-house evaluations going beyond a certification test.

Is it Hoisting?

Also set for action in 2017 is a package of revisions (RIN:1218-AC81) to the crane rule OSHA hopes won’t be controversial.

On Dec. 1, the construction advisory committee approved all four changes sought by OSHA.

Only one proposed revision raised significant questions from the committee.

Ashley Briefel, of OSHA’s Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, said the agency wants to redefine “hoisting” to include lifting or stabilizing loads, such as trusses, that have one end touching the ground or connected to a structure.

That possible change raised concerns from many of the committee’s employee and industry representatives.

Committee member Steven Rank, a safety official with the International Association of Iron Workers, said that new definition could lead to OSHA prohibiting structural steel workers from standing on beams or reinforcing steel components that are partially supported by a crane while installation work is completed.

Briefel said OSHA didn’t intend to ban workers from being on the supported components.

The committee, then, agreed to the new hoisting definition. However, the panel said OSHA must make it clear in the rule that laborers would continue to be able work from structures partially supported by cranes.

Railroad Settlement

The committee unanimously approved changes to the crane rule intended to close a six-year-old challenge by the Association of American Railroads ( Ass’n. of Am. R.R. v. OSHA, D.C. Cir., No. 10-1386, 9/14/14 ).

In 2010, the association questioned the rule in a federal appeals court, seeking to clarify that specialized equipment used to maintain railroad tracks wasn’t subject to the crane rule.OSHA and the association signed a settlement in 2014 exempting the equipment. The revisions covered in the proposed rulemaking (RIN:1218-AD07) will implement the changes, according to Michael Buchet, of OSHA’s Office of Construction Standards and Guidance.

OSHA hopes to issue the railroad revisions as a direct final rule, a process the agency uses for rulemakings not expected to face opposition.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

OSHA’s analysis of the hoisting proposal is available at src.bna.com/kuj.

OSHA’s analysis of the railroad proposal is available at src.bna.com/kuk.

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