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November 24, 2010
New Rule on Cranes and Derricks in Construction Finalized; What It Means for California Employers

On July 28, federal OSHA finalized an updated rule on cranes and derricks in construction, which is designed to prevent the leading causes of fatalities, including electrocution, crushed-by/struck-by hazards during assembly/disassembly, collapse, and overturn. The rule goes into effect for some states on Nov. 8 and replaces OSHA's existing standard. A new subpart has been created for it within federal OSHA's Construction Standards in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations in Part 1926, Subpart CC (29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC).

The new rule also sets requirements for ground conditions and crane operator assessment; addresses tower crane hazards and the use of synthetic slings for assembly/disassembly work; and clarifies the scope of the regulation by providing a list of examples of the equipment that is covered. OSHA has created a page with links to the new rule, a fact sheet, and other resources.

"State-plan" states like California—which operate their own job safety and health programs with standards that are "at least as effective as" comparable federal standards—have six months from Nov. 8 to revise their own rules in accordance with the new federal standard. But California already has extensive regulations in place affecting the operation of cranes and derricks, meaning employers in California may not have to deal with quite as many regulatory changes as employers in other states.

Practice Tip

Cal/OSHA has a special Crane Certifier Accreditation Unit that provides support to Enforcement Unit district offices and enforcement personnel in areas related to crane safety. To obtain information about crane safety, you can contact the unit.

Some Things Change, Some Things Remain the Same

Here's how some of the major provisions in the rule may affect California employers:

Preventing electrocution. Federal OSHA's requirements for power-line safety are found in 29 CFR 1926.1407 and 1408; Cal/OSHA's are found in Article 37 of the Electrical Safety Orders. Federal OSHA's standard is specific to crane assembly, disassembly, and operations; Cal/OSHA's requirements are not specific to cranes. Employers may therefore see some new requirements designed to ensure that clearance distances are not breached, or if clearance distances cannot be maintained, protections against arcing and contact are put in place.

The new federal OSHA standard includes specific power-line safety training requirements for all members of lift crews. Sometimes Cal/OSHA will follow federal OSHA's lead for training requirements; other times, Cal/OSHA falls back on the training requirements in its Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard. The clearance distances in the federal OSHA standard are different from those in Cal/OSHA's rule, so employers may see changes in the training requirements.

Preventing crushed-by/struck-by hazards. Crane workers may be struck or crushed by the crane or parts of the crane during assembly, disassembly, or operation; they may also be struck by the load. The new federal OSHA rules to prevent these types of accidents are found in 29 CFR 1926.1403-1406 (which address assembly/disassembly hazards) and 29 CFR 1419-1426 (which address operational hazards). Cal/OSHA has very limited rules applicable to preventing these injuries. The new federal rule requires cranes to be assembled and disassembled according to the manufacturer's requirements, or requirements that offer equivalent safety, under a competent person's direction. It also requires crew member training.

To prevent crushed-by or struck-by hazards during operation, the new rule requires employers to control the work area (including workers who are out of view and workers who enter the swing radius of a crane's superstructure) and improve signaling. The signaling requirements are more detailed than Cal/OSHA's requirements, found in Section 5001 of Article 37. Detailed load control requirements are also included in the new federal OSHA standard, along with equipment inspection requirements intended to reduce the chance of boom failure.

Ground conditions. Ground conditions—the ground's ability to support equipment—affect the safety of many operations, including trenching, scaffolding, and cranes. Under Section 1402 of the new federal OSHA standard, employers must ensure that the ground conditions and supporting materials are firm, drained, and graded in a way that safely supports the crane equipment and the load being lifted. Cal/OSHA has no direct corollary to this requirement.

Synthetic slings. Although federal OSHA already had some rules in place that addressed the hazards of slings, it determined that the existing rules did not address the hazards associated with the use of synthetic slings in crane assembly and disassembly operations. Safety requirements for synthetic slings are included in 29 CFR 1926.1404(r). Cal/OSHA has similar requirements in place in Section 5048 of the General Industry Safety Orders, which requires employers to use appropriate fittings, protect slings from damage, and use them in accordance with the manufacturer's requirements.

Operator certification. Cal/OSHA's operator certification requirements are found in General Industry Safety Orders Section 5006.1; the new federal operator certification requirements are found in 29 CFR 1926.47. Both standards require operators to pass a written exam that meets national testing standards as well as a hands-on evaluation. (Federal OSHA's standard includes more detail about what the training must cover and who can provide certification.) As with Cal/OSHA's standard, certifications obtained in compliance with the federal OSHA standard are good for five years.

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