In the wake of a flurry of crane-related fatalities on construction sites, OSHA has come under fire from a broad range of industry and labor groups on the crane standard, which has not been revised since 1971. An OSHA-convened panel of labor and industry groups developed consensus recommendations in 2004, but a proposed rule isn’t out yet and critics say OSHA has been dragging its feet.
Foulke said the advisory panel only developed the regulatory text of the document. He added that, since 2004, OSHA has had to draft 1,000 pages of additional regulatory “preamble” language and conduct reviews under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act and Paperwork Reduction Act.
“There are certain things Congress has mandated that we have to go through,” Foulke said. Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.) was skeptical. “I can understand that lapse of time when the draft regulations are contentious, but my understanding was that there was agreement with all stakeholders...and we still have no proposed rule,” Bishop said.
Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) wondered “whether OSHA has sufficient resources to do its job.” Foulke said “OSHA’s program’s are working,” and added that it is “finding the sites that have the problems” through targeted enforcement.
Jon Porter, a Republican from Nevada, where several workers have died in recent construction accidents, said he has asked for a hike in grants for states that conduct their own safety inspections. “It’s been a decade since funds have been increased for states,” Porter said.
"Unions want new construction safety agency within Labor Dept."
Unions are pushing for major workplace-safety changes. Mark Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trade Dept., said the spate of fatalities points to a need for a separate construction safety agency within the Labor Dept., similar to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. “Few people understand that, on average, four workers are killed every day on U.S. construction sites,” Ayers said.
ouse Education and Labor Committee members lambasted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at a June 24 hearing for not moving faster on a new crane and derrick safety standard and questioned OSHA’s overall effectiveness in ensuring that workers are safe. OSHA’s chief, Edwin G. Foulke, defended his agency’s record. He told lawmakers a proposed crane standard should be published by September but said a final rule may not be in place until 2009. Ayers also called for immediate action on a crane standard, stepped-up OSHA enforcement, more funding for construction and research and an emergency temporary standard requiring all construction workers to be trained and certified in OSHA’s basic 10-hour course.