Yes, but... Part of a schematic explaining when OSHA's new rule applies to articulating knuckle-boom cranes.
Courtesy National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators Yes, but... Part of a schematic explaining when OSHA's new rule applies to articulating knuckle-boom cranes.

On Nov. 8, 2010, a final rule by OSHA on the operation of cranes and derricks in construction went into effect. That rule is expected to impact 267,000 establishments employing 4.8 million workers, and those companies now have until November 2014 to get their operators retrained and certified. OSHA expects the rule’s new safety standards will prevent 22 fatalities and 175 nonfatal injuries per year.

The NAHB was one of only two members of a 23-member Cranes and Derricks Advisory Committee that objected to the section of the new rule that requires third-party certification on all crane and derrick operators across the board.

The final rule, which has been in the works since 1998, applies to cranes and derricks used in construction with the capacity to lift at least 2,000 pounds. But figuring out what equipment and jobsite circumstances OSHA’s rule covers can get complicated, as the schematic above shows. For example, it doesn’t apply to articulating knuckle-boom cranes that are dropping building materials onto the ground at a jobsite and are not placing those materials in a particular order.

OSHA also issued new rules for qualifying and certifying signal men and riggers.

Bob Behlman, president of Behlman Builders in Chesterfield, Mo., also owns Chesterfield Crane, a full-service crane operator for commercial and residential projects. He’s been in this business for 33 years and thinks OSHA’s final rule “is pretty good” for commercial applications. His gripe, though, is that OSHA didn’t come up with a separate standard for residential construction. “It’s one size fits all.”

He would have preferred industry- and crane-specific rules, because commercial and residential are like night and day when it comes to using lifting equipment:

• When a 32-ton crane comes onto a jobsite where homes are being built, it’s usually there for a few hours, perhaps to place trusses or modules. A 350-ton lattice boom or tower crane, on the other hand, can be on a commercial site for six months or longer.

• A residential jobsite has already been compacted after grading, so the only real concern is making sure there’s a sewer ditch and avoiding power lines. Whereas at a commercial site “you’re starting with a big hole,” says Behlman, so there are issues concerning ground conditions and water runoff.

• Behlman’s biggest complaint with OSHA’s rule is that it identifies the builder as the controlling entity to ensure ground conditions are sufficient to support the equipment. In the past, the company providing the cranes and derricks had that responsibility. “I don’t want some [site] supervisor telling a crane operator where to place his equipment.”

Behlman told Builder earlier this year that under the new rule he’d need to send his operators to one of only two national certifiers sanctioned by OSHA. That would mean travel and lodging expenses, on top of certification fees. “I could be spending thousands of dollars to certify my people, and then they could go to another employer for a dollar more per hour, and that employer won’t have to spend a dime to train them.”

He went so far as to say that OSHA’s final rule might push him toward not offering crane services for residential projects.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC, St. Louis, MO.