Local Rules Will Help Curb Crane Mishaps
The article “New York City Official Blasts Federal Standards for Cranes” was interesting. One of the first crane accidents I remember was a crane “tip-over” in New York City in the early 1980s. A contractor was unloading materials from a delivery truck during the noon hour. The sidewalk was not blocked off, and the public was able to walk between the crane that was unloading the materials and the construction project on the other side of the sidewalk.
The person operating the crane tipped the crane over, pinning a woman both under the crane and other materials. One of New York City’s police officers spent many hours under the debris, holding the woman’s hand and encouraging her. The woman was eventually rescued, and the hue and cry was for safer operations of cranes.
Recent crane accidents in New York and other cities around the U.S. should cause public officials and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to question the effectiveness of current OSHA regulations, the enforcement of old crane standards and the effectiveness of training by employers.
Most federal crane rules are based on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) voluntary standards from 1968. The ASME standards for mobile and tower cranes are updated periodically, but OSHA has chosen not to adopt or incorporate them. OSHA’s crane and derrick advisory committee has come up with updated crane regulations. The update was about four years ago, but OSHA shelved it. Only after high-profile crane accidents did OSHA decide to dust off and propose the recommendations.
OSHA is not the whole answer to preventing crane and rigging accidents. It is part of the solution because of its ability to establish minimum safety requirements that employers must implement and enforce. The true solution is for employers to train their employees using the most current safety requirements.
Cities like New York that have developed their own crane standards can help ensure safe operations by adopting stricter standards than OSHA requirements. Buildings Commissioner LiMandri’s comment that “a change in culture must come to this industry...[it] needs more oversight, not less,” is accurate.
To change the culture, government agencies should build on the OSHA regulations to come up with a valid, up-to- date mandate for contractors performing work in their jurisdictions. Employers, trade associations and unions should provide qualified training for employees and members that at least meets the most recent safety standards and crane manufacturers’ recommendations.
Certification by professional third parties is one way of ensuring the person being trained and tested receives accurate information and knowledge. When employers rely on third-party organizations to train their employees, the employers should also check the content of the courses and the success ratio of individuals completing the courses.
Individuals who operate cranes and perform rigging functions should know the latest requirements that apply to their work and follow those procedures. Safety people should have more than a basic knowledge of cranes and rigging.
Qualified training and effective enforcement will reduce crane and rigging accidents.
Rules Won't Curb Corruption
New York City’s accidents were not stopped by their so-called tough safety standards. In fact, the accidents likely happened because of corruption and city employees being bribed or turning a blind eye to their responsibilities. Once more, New York City has no more right than any other city or state to supersede crane safety standards and laws preempted by OSHA, according to a recent federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. They just have had the good fortune of not having been sued yet.