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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Worker Safety in the Construction Industry: The Crane and Derrick Standard

Linda Levine
Specialist in Labor Economics

The safety of construction workers who toil in close proximity to cranes garnered congressional attention after tower cranes were involved in multiple fatalities at buildings under construction in 2008 (e.g., nine deaths in two incidents in New York City). Additional crane-related fatalities have occurred since the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on construction worker safety in June 2008. 

Construction has historically been the most hazardous industry as measured by number of fatalities. Most construction fatalities involving cranes have been caused by contact with objects and equipment (e.g., struck by a falling object being transported by a crane, contact with power lines). An analysis of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) files of construction fatalities involving cranes most frequently found violations of the following federal construction safety standard: 29 CFR 1926 Subpart N—Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators and Escalators. 

OSHA's crane and derrick standard had been virtually unchanged since its promulgation in 1971. In a July 2002 notice of intent to create a negotiated rulemaking committee, OSHA acknowledged that industry consensus standards had been updated and crane technology had changed considerably over three decades. The Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC) voted favorably on an extensive revision to the standard and submitted draft regulatory language to OSHA in July 2004. After proceeding through the rulemaking process for four years, OSHA submitted a draft proposed rule for review to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB completed its review on August 28, 2008. The proposed rule that was published in October 2008 largely reflected C-DAC's recommendations (e.g., certification of crane operators). The public comment period ended in January 2009. A public hearing was held in March 2009. The period for post-hearing submissions and briefs closed in June 2009. 

Although most of the 21 states that operate their own safety and health programs for private sector workers have adopted OSHA's standards, some have established more stringent regulations for specific hazards in certain industries (e.g., certification of crane operators). Similarly, some non-state-plan states and localities have adopted crane regulations in their building codes to protect the safety and property of their residents. Because this raised questions about the Occupational Safety and Health Act's preemption of the laws in localities other than state-plan states, the final rule differs from the proposed rule by making clear they are not preempted. 

Most of the final rule will go into effect in November 2010, 90 days after its publication on August 9. The rule's requirement that crane operators be qualified or certified generally is delayed for four years because there currently are a limited number of training facilities accredited by OSHA. However, the requirement is not delayed in those states and localities that already have operator licensing requirements that meet the rule's minimum criteria. Another difference between the proposed and final rule is a requirement that towers be inspected before they are moved to a site and erected. And, as a result of the frequency with which construction workers have been injured or killed when cranes come into contact with power lines, the final rule requires work to be performed in accordance with the power transmission and distribution standard.

Date of Report: August 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL34658
Price: $29.95

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