Crane accidents are one of the enduring nightmares of construction work, so it is notable that as an industry where regulation often equals costs and entanglements, construction professionals have joined together to support the long-awaited publication date of a new federal safety rule that would make certifying crane operators mandatory. Much thought and work have gone into this regulation, and employers would still be responsible for operator competence. The standard is a good step forward; further delay will only postpone its needed safety benefit.
The revisions to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s cranes and derricks standard and related rules were first published in the Federal Register in 2010. Recognizing the potential for a new and unnecessary delay, a broad industry group coalition asked Congress on May 1 to thwart attempts to block enforcement so crane-operator mandates could be in place in November.
The new standard’s effects are far-reaching and go beyond what is strictly considered the construction sector. The propane industry, which uses cranes to distribute products, has argued that these activities should not be covered. After weighing the argument, OSHA finally decided that propane industry work can be considered construction in many instances and included it.
Construction-sector supporters of the rule don’t say what the new potential delay is, other than noting their awareness of “an effort underway on Capitol Hill to deny the U.S. Dept. of Labor the resources necessary to implement” the rule in fiscal 2019. The breadth of the Coalition for Crane Operator Safety is impressive— from the Associated General Contractors and Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association to the ironworkers’ and operating engineers’ unions to the National Center for Construction Education and Research, among others.
In April, the new standard took a promising step forward, notes another coalition member, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators. OSHA sent the new proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget, which triggered a new round of review and comment. The OMB review “is a promising indication after several months of inactivity that a final rule will see publication prior to the extended deadline of November this year,” noted Commission CEO Graham Brent.
With any new holdup, the November deadline for final-rule publication would again be in jeopardy—with more confusion. Employers hesitate to spend for certifications without a clear mandate, and no state has enacted an operator certification law since 2011, the coalition reports. All new regulations deserve hard scrutiny before they burden businesses more than existing ones. Yet here is a time when the industry is satisfied that it has been listened to and is asking the Dept. of Labor to act.