Crane operator certification requirements pushed back

The deadline for crane operator certification requirements in the Cranes and Derricks in Construction final rule has been extended three years by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This means the deadline is now Nov. 10, 2017.

OSHA’s extension also means the employers’ responsibility to ensure crane operators are proficient in safe practices is pushed back three years.

“During the three-year period, OSHA will address operator qualification requirements for the cranes standards including the role of operator certification,” the agency said in a recent press release. “The final cranes and derricks rule required crane operators on construction sites to meet one of four qualification/certification options by Nov. 10, 2014. After publishing the final rule, a number of parties raised concerns about the Standard’s requirement to certify operators by type and capacity of crane and questioned whether crane operator certification was sufficient for determining whether an operator could operate their equipment safely on a construction site.”

OSHA said it’s developing a standard for crane operator qualifications. Meanwhile, the Cranes and Derricks in Construction final rule calls on employers in Arizona to:

  • Determine whether the ground is sufficient to support the weight of hoisting equipment and associated loads
  • Assess hazards within the work zone that may impact the safe operation of hoisting equipment
  • Ensure the equipment is in safe operating condition through inspection and proper worker training

Crane accidents put safety measures center stage
The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows 72 crane-related fatal occupational injuries over the course of one year. These include instances where the source of the injury was a crane, the secondary source was a crane or where the worker activity was crane operation.

Figures showed 42% of fatalities occurred because of falling objects, while falls were responsible for 20%. Meanwhile, workers being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects accounted for 11% of fatalities, followed by transportation incidents at 10%. Finally, contact with electric current and other struck with object both comprised 8%.

Based on this data, it’s no surprise that overhead cranes represented the greatest danger.

“Of the cranes that were specified in the fatality, mobile, truck, and rail mounted cranes, and overhead cranes represented the type of crane involved for the majority of fatalities,” the BLS stated. “Overhead cranes typically have a hook-and-line mechanism on a horizontal beam that runs along two widely separated rails, whereas mobile cranes are usually cranes that are mounted and travel on top of mobile devices such as trucks or rail cars.”

Arizona employers who use cranes and other heavy equipment may want to double down on efforts to not only enhance worker productivity, but also increase employee safety.

Getting a jump on safety procedures
While employers may now have an extra three years before certification requirements come down from OSHA, there are steps they want to take now to promote worker safety.

The first action employers might want to take is recognizing which hazards pose the biggest risk. Besides BLS data outlining the causes of crane-related fatalities, OSHA states the four most common causes of crane-related accidents are:

  • Contact with power lines
  • Overturns
  • Falls
  • Mechanical failures

Taking steps to minimize these risks could significantly reduce accidents and improve worker safety.

Additionally, Arizona employers may want to ensure all crane operators are trained in specifics regarding the function of all major crane components, proper techniques, hand signals and the daily inspection of equipment.

Requirements issued by OSHA may be forthcoming, but employers still have a responsibility for the performance and overall safety of their operations.

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