Monday, November 8, 2010

Deconstructing Construction Crane Standards, Pt. 1

Well, it’s November 08, 2010, and if you are covered under OSHA’s 1926 standards for Construction, and you operate just about any sort of crane, then your world has probably changed a little. After almost forty years, the Overhead Crane standards have been dramatically revised, with major changes in the training requirements for both operators and for ground personnel. Those changes went into effect this morning. We’ll explore these changes over the course of the next couple of updates.

First off, who is affected by these changes? Well, the easy part is, if you fall under OSHA’s 1910, General Industry standards, you can relax; this isn’t aimed at you. Only Construction is involved with this round of changes. The standard defines a crane for the purposes of this section as "power-operated equipment that, when used in construction, can hoist, lower and horizontally move a suspended load" [1926.1400]. That’s pretty broad, so these changes are obviously meant to have pretty sweeping impact. Some, but not all, equipment included are mobile cranes, tower cranes, crawler cranes, boom trucks, knuckleboom cranes, and cranes on barges. Also included are service trucks with a lifting device, pile drivers, and multipurpose equipment that is outfitted to hoist and lower, and horizontally move a suspended load.

Now, before everyone gets too upset, there are some exclusions. First off, there is a general exclusion for equipment with a manufacturer’s rated lifting capacity of less than 2000 pounds. Also, several types of equipment are mostly excluded; excavators, backhoes (even when used to lift suspended loads), concrete pumps, aerial lifts, tow trucks, digger derricks, gantry systems, and forklifts among them. Be sure and check 29 CFR 1926.1400(c) for detailed information on the exclusions.

Probably the biggest change involved in the new revision is the requirement for training of personnel involved in crane operations. Today, we will look at the most prominent: the operator. Beginning today, all operators of affected equipment must be certified to operate the specific equipment under their control. However, there is a four-year grace period to have the training completed, giving a real deadline of November 10, 2014. There are a few ways to comply with this standard. The first is to send operators to a nationally-accredited training program that includes practical and written tests specific to the equipment type and rating for their certification. This option may be the easiest to implement, if not necessarily the least expensive. A quick internet search for ‘crane certification’ should pull up several options, just make sure they are nationally accredited to insure compliance with the standard.

Another option is an audited employer training program. The employer may hire an independent auditor (certified by an accredited crane operator testing organization) to oversee training programs developed by the company. This option results in a certification that is not portable, so employees certified under this rule may only operate equipment while employed by that company. This option requires the employer to take an active role in training, and may be a good option if company resources permit.

There are also options to be certified by a government entity, or by the US military. In any case, certifications are valid for a maximum of five years.

We’re over 500 words into this, and we have barely scratched the surface. In the next installment, we will look at the changes that affect signalers and riggers. In the mean time, if you need additional assistance, the crane standard can be found in 29 CFR 1926.1400, and an independent safety consultant can be contacted to help determine what particular exposures your company has, and what approach would be most effective in ensuring your compliance.


1 comment:

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