Worker Safety in the Construction Industry: The Crane and Derrick Standard
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
The safety of construction workers who toil in close proximity to cranes garnered congressional
attention after tower cranes were involved in multiple fatalities at buildings under construction in
2008 (e.g., nine deaths in two incidents in New York City). Additional crane-related fatalities
occurred since the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on construction worker
safety in June 2008, including four employees of a Louisiana-based construction firm who died
when the contractor’s mobile crane fell at a Houston refinery.
Construction historically has been the most hazardous industry as measured by number of
fatalities. With 1,178 out of 4,956 on-the-job fatalities in the private sector in 2007, no other
industry ranks higher than construction. The majority of construction deaths usually result from
falls and transportation accidents (e.g., 38% and 24%, respectively, in 2007), according to the
classification system of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational
Injuries. In contrast, most construction fatalities involving cranes are caused by contact with
objects and equipment (e.g., struck by a falling crane). In 2007, contact with objects and
equipment accounted for 71% of crane-related deaths of workers in the construction industry. An
analysis of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) files of construction
fatalities involving cranes most frequently found violations of the following federal construction
safety standard: 29 CFR 1926 Subpart N—Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators and Escalators.
OSHA’s crane and derrick standard has been virtually unchanged since its promulgation in 1971.
In a July 2002 notice of intent to create a negotiated rulemaking committee, OSHA acknowledged
that industry consensus standards had been updated and crane technology had changed
considerably over three decades. The Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory
Committee (C-DAC) voted favorably on an extensive revision to the standard and submitted draft
regulatory language to OSHA in July 2004. After proceeding through the rulemaking process for
four years, OSHA submitted a draft proposed rule for review to the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB). OMB completed its review on August 28, 2008. The proposed rule was published
in the Federal Register on October 9, 2008. It appears to largely reflect C-DAC’s
recommendations (e.g., operator certification). Public comments and hearing requests about the
proposed rule initially were due by December 8, 2008. The comment period was extended to
January 22, 2009.
Although most of the 21 states that operate their own safety and health programs for private
sector workers have adopted OSHA’s standards, some have set more stringent regulations for
specific hazards in certain industries. For example, many of these states require certification of
crane operators: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico,
New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. To protect the safety and property of their residents,
other jurisdictions have promulgated regulations requiring operator certification as well:
Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Miami-Dade county,
Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, and Omaha.
Fatal and Nonfatal Workplace Injuries............................................................................................1
Fatalities in the Construction Industry............................................................................................1
Causes of All Private Construction Fatalities............................................................................2
Fatalities Involving Cranes.......................................................................................................3
Crane Safety Standards....................................................................................................................7
The Federal OSHA Standard.....................................................................................................7
Standards of Jurisdictions.........................................................................................................11
Figure 1. Causes of Fatalities in Private Construction, 2007..........................................................3
Table 1. Fatal Injuries Involving Cranes, 2003-2007......................................................................4
Table 2. Causes of Fatalities in the Private Construction Industry Involving Cranes, 2003-
2007 .............................................................................................................................................. 4
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................13
he numerous fatalities involving cranes at building sites in 2008 prompted Congress to
focus on construction worker safety. Standards promulgated by the U.S. Department of
Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) address worker safety in T
the construction industry. So, too, do regulations issued by many jurisdictions.
This report first examines the incidence of fatal and nonfatal on-the-job injuries in the private
sector. It next analyzes the causes of fatalities in the construction industry and the involvement of
cranes in those deaths. The report then addresses the status of a proposed rule to update OSHA’s
crane and derrick standard. It closes with an overview of jurisdictions having safety regulations
for cranes more stringent, in whole or part, than the existing federal standard.
Construction historically has been the most hazardous industry in the United States based on the
number of fatalities, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Census of
Fatal Occupational Injuries. With 1,178 out of 4,956 deaths of private sector workers in 2007—1
almost one in four on-the-job fatalities—no other industry ranks higher than construction.
Construction’s fatality rate of 10.3 per 100,000 persons employed in the industry was more than
twice the average for all private sector industries (4.0 per 100,000 employed persons) in 2007.
The fatality rate in construction was exceeded in only three industry groups: agriculture, forestry,
fishing, and hunting (27.3); mining (24.8); and transportation and warehousing (15.9).
Construction also is hazardous when measured in terms of nonfatal injuries. One in ten nonfatal
occupational injuries were experienced in the private construction industry in 2007, according to
data from BLS’ Survey of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. Accounting for 371,700 of the 3.8
million injury cases in the private sector, construction ranked higher than all but three industry
groups: manufacturing (711,900), retail trade (559,400) and health care (565,200).
The construction industry’s nonfatal injury rate of 5.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in the
industry was above the average for the private sector (4.0 cases per 100 full-time workers).
Several industries exceeded construction’s nonfatal injury rate (e.g., air transportation, 9.5;
couriers and messengers, 9.2; nursing and residential care facilities, 8.4; wood products
manufacturing, 7.8; hospitals, 7.7; primary metal manufacturing, 7.5; and warehousing and
The safety of construction workers who toil in close proximity to cranes garnered congressional
attention after tower cranes had a role in multiple fatalities at buildings under construction in
1 The data referenced in this report cover the private sector whenever possible because employees of governmental
organizations were not fatally injured in the incidents that brought construction safety to the attention of Congress and
because employees of the federal government and of state governments and their subdivisions are exempt from
coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The private sector is composed of the following
major industry groups: natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation, and utilities;
professional and business services; and other services, except public administration.
and one death in Las Vegas in May. In addition to Members of Congress writing to the Labor
Department about these deaths and other issues pertaining to workplace safety in construction, the
House Committee on Education and Labor conducted a hearing on OSHA enforcement of
construction safety standards. Members heard testimony about deaths of construction workers 2
caused by falls specifically. Witnesses also addressed fatalities involving cranes and the status of
OSHA’s crane and derrick standard.
Additional crane-related fatalities occurred after the Education and Labor Committee held its
hearing on June 24, 2008. Among them are four employees of Deep South Crane and Rigging of
Louisiana who died as the result of the construction contractor’s mobile crane falling at a 3
Houston refinery of LyondellBasell in late July 2008. Reportedly, through the first seven months 4
of 2008, at least 18 workers were killed in construction accidents in which cranes played a role.
Four causes—falls, transportation accidents, contact with objects and equipment, and exposure to
harmful substances or environments—accounted for 94% of fatalities in the private construction
industry in 2007, on the basis of the classification system of BLS’s Census of Fatal Occupational 5
Injuries (CFOI). As shown in Figure 1, almost two in five fatalities were the result of falls (442
of 1,178). Transportation accidents were responsible for almost one in four fatalities; about half of
these 283 deaths were due to highway accidents. Contact with objects and equipment caused
another 17% of fatalities. About half of the 206 workers fatally injured for this reason were struck
by objects and equipment (106); often, the objects and equipment were falling (81). Exposure to
harmful substances or environments produced an additional 15% of fatalities. Contact with
electric current (e.g., overhead power lines) caused three in five of these 179 fatalities.
2 OSHA standards for fall protection in the construction industry are 29 CFR 1926 Subpart E (Personal Protection
Equipment and Life Saving Equipment),Subpart M (Fall Protection), and Subpart X (Ladders). Related standards
include Subpart L (Scaffolds) and Subpart R (Steel Erection).
3 Fatalities are classified based on the industry of the deceased worker’s employer, which can differ from the industry
of the employer at which the fatality occurs (e.g., when on-site contractors are utilized).
4 Kris Maher, “Democrats Seek Tougher Crane Safety Standard as Deaths Mount,” The Wall Street Journal, July 25,
5 BLS releases preliminary CFOI data for the preceding year in August; final data, the following April.
Figure 1. Causes of Fatalities in Private Construction, 2007
F a lls
Contact with objects and equipmentExposure to harmful substances or environments15%
Source: Created by the Congressional Research Service from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
A fairly similar picture of the leading causes of construction fatalities emerges from analyses
prepared annually by the University of Tennessee’s Construction Industry Research and Policy 6
Center (CIRPC) for OSHA. Historically, fall from/through roof has been the most frequent cause
of fatalities in the construction industry, and fall from/with structure (other than roof) has been the
second leading cause. This is borne out in the CIRPC’s analysis of OSHA inspection records of
780 fatal events and 800 fatally injured workers in the construction industry in 2006: falls
from/through roof caused almost 13% of all fatal events (98 events and 99 deaths) and falls 7
from/with structures caused about 9% of all fatal events (72 events and deaths). The third-
leading cause in 2006 was crushed/run-over of non-operator by operating construction equipment,
which produced 8% of the industry’s fatal events (63 events and deaths). Electric shock from
equipment installation/tool use accounted for almost 8% of fatal events (61 events and deaths).
Crushed/run-over/trapped of operator of construction equipment had been the fourth-leading
cause in 2005, but in 2006, it dipped to fifth place with 57 fatal events and deaths, or about 7% of
the total. On the basis of OSHA’s inspection data and CIRPC’s classification system, a large
minority of fatal events in the construction industry usually are due to these five factors. In 2006,
they accounted for 45% of fatal events.
In 2007, as shown in Table 1, there were 35 fatalities in the private construction industry in which 8
cranes played a primary or secondary role or where the worker activity was operating a crane.
6 These similarities exist despite the CIRPC utilizing a classification system for causes of fatalities that differs from the
BLS system, and despite the CIRPC utilizing only OSHA-inspected fatal events. In contrast, the CFOI collects
information from some two dozen additional sources such as death certificates and workers’ compensation records. The
BLS database also covers self-employed persons among others to whom the OSH Act does not apply (e.g., mine
workers, employees in highway, water, rail and air transportation industries).
7 Construction Industry Research and Policy Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, An Analysis of Fatal Events
in the Construction Industry 2006, February 2008.
8 BLS defines crane-related fatalities as those in which a crane is the primary source of the injury (e.g., crane collapses
These deaths represented only 3% of the 1,178 fatal work injuries in the construction industry in
Table 1. Fatal Injuries Involving Cranes, 2003-2007
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007p
a Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
61 100 85 100 83 100 69 100 66 100
31 51 40 47 35 42 26 38 35 53
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
Note: p = preliminary. In 2003, the census changed to the North American Industrial Classification system.
a. The private sector is composed of natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade,
transportation, and utilities; professional and business services; and other services, except public
The causes of construction fatalities involving cranes differ from the above-described pattern for
the industry as a whole. The majority of crane-related construction worker deaths each year result
from contact with objects and equipment (e.g., struck by crane or its load). (See Table 2.) More
specifically, falling objects and equipment most often are to blame. Exposure to harmful
substances or environments (e.g., overhead power lines) ran a distant second to contact with
objects and equipment between 2003 and 2005, while falls ranked a distant second in 2006 and
Table 2. Causes of Fatalities in the Private Construction Industry Involving Cranes,
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007p
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
31 100 40 100 35 100 26 100 35 100
19 61 30 64 23 66 17 65 25 76
ure to 10 32 6 15 7 20 — — 3 9
— — 3 8 — — 5 19 5 14
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, unpublished tabulation.
on laborer), the secondary source of the injury (e.g., one crane strikes another crane which drops its load on a signal
person), or in which the worker activity is operating a crane.
9 Two other industries that regularly experience fatalities in which cranes play a role are manufacturing and mining. In
2007, crane-related fatalities at manufacturers accounted for 20% of all fatalities in the private sector; at mines, 11%.
Note: p = preliminary. Dash indicates data not reported or data do not meet Bureau publication criteria. Not all
columns sum to totals. In 2003, the census changed to the North American Industrial Classification system.
Employees of specialty trade contractors (e.g., foundation, structure, and building exterior
contractors; building equipment contractors) usually experience the largest share of crane-related
fatalities in the private construction industry according to CFOI data. In 2007, for example, 16 of
the 35 construction fatalities involving cranes occurred among employees of specialty trades
contractors. Another 13 workers who died in crane-related construction accidents were employed
by firms erecting buildings in that year, primarily nonresidential buildings. Cranes played a role
in five fatalities at companies engaged in heavy and civil engineering construction (e.g., highways
and bridges) in 2007. Over the years, the second highest annual incidence of crane-related
fatalities occurred in one or the other of these two subsectors of construction firms.
The CPWR—Center for Construction Research and Training of the Building and Construction
Trades Department of the AFL-CIO utilized the CFOI database to study crane-related deaths in 10
the construction industry between 1992 and 2006.The report’s authors calculated that there
were 323 deaths of construction workers involving 307 crane incidents over the period, or 22 11
construction worker deaths per year on average. Of the fatal crane incidents identified by
CPWR, 71% involved mobile cranes. Only 5% of the incidents involved tower cranes. Another 12
4% involved overhead cranes, which also was the incidence for floating or barge cranes. (See
the following text box for descriptions of selected types of cranes.)
Selected Types of Cranes
Essentially, a crane is a machine used to lift and lower a heavy load vertically and to move it horizontally; the hoisting
mechanism is an integral part of the machinery.
Mobile Crane: The boom (arm) is affixed to a movable platform. The platform can be a truck with traditional
rubber wheels or resemble a four-wheel drive vehicle with wheels able to move over (un)paved surfaces. Truck-
mounted and rough-terrain cranes generally have outriggers that first extend horizontally and then vertically to level and
stabilize them. A crawler crane is mounted to an undercarriage with wheels designed for railroad tracks that provide
both mobility and stability.
Tower Crane: Used in the construction of high-rise buildings and usually the tallest type of crane, it must be
assembled/disassembled piece by piece. A tower crane resembles a very tall ladder, with the elevated boom
perpendicular to it. The working boom rotates to swing loads that are suspended from it. To provide stability and
save space, a tower crane generally is fixed to the ground with the vertical part jacked up and attached to and within
the structure being built.
Overhead Crane: The hoist is located on a bridge (horizontal beam) that is attached to two walls or the ceiling. (An
overhead crane often is used in the assembly area of a factory or in a warehouse.) The bridge of a gantry crane, in
contrast, is supported by two or more rigid legs that move on a fixed floor-level runway. (Gantry cranes often are
used in shipyards to unload and move large containers.)
Floating Crane: Equipment designed for marine use by permanent attachment to a barge, vessel, or other means of
flotation. (The floating crane primarily is used to build bridges and ports.)
10 CFOI began in 1992, at which time the Standard Industrial Classification system was in use. A break in the series
occurred in 2003, when CFOI began utilizing the North American Industrial Classification system.
11 CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training, Crane-Related Deaths in Construction and
Recommendations for Their Prevention, 2008. (Hereafter cited as CPWR, Crane-Related Deaths in Construction.)
12 Crane type was unavailable for the remaining 16% (66) incidents.
The CPWR report additionally analyzed the CFOI data by occupation, size of firm, and nature of
employment relationship. More than one-half of those who died were construction laborers (30%)
or heavy equipment (e.g., crane) operators (23%). Almost one-third of the fatally injured worked
for subcontractors with fewer than 10 employees. Self-employed workers accounted for 6% of
construction workers fatally injured in crane-related incidents over the 1992-2006 period.
The CIRPC decided to reanalyze OSHA inspection data over the 1991-2002 period focusing on
fatalities that involved cranes or derricks because of the increased importance of cranes to the 13
construction industry and activity to update OSHA’s crane and derrick standard. CIRPC
conservatively estimated that the machinery played a role in 600 fatal events or 8% of all fatal
events (7,479) in the construction industry investigated by OSHA compliance officers between
The CIRPC researchers also read 125 case files of OSHA investigations of construction fatalities 14
involving cranes between 1997 and 2003. “Regarding the types of cranes involved in fatal 15
incidents, mobile cranes represented 88.4 percent of the fatalities.”Tower cranes represented 4%
(5) of the fatal events in the 1997-2003 period, which is about the incidence CPWR calculated
based on CFOI data from 1992 to 2006.
The most frequent serious or willful (SW) violations of OSHA standards involved 29 CFR 1926 16
Subpart N (Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators and Escalators), according to the CIRPC authors.
Subpart C (General Safety and Health Provisions), Subpart M (Fall Protection), Subpart L
(Scaffolds), Subpart R (Steel Erection), and Subpart K (Electrical) followed.
Because most of the construction workers who died in crane-related events were riggers17 and
laborers, the CIRPC report’s authors suggested that persons working in these occupations should
receive training in the hazards of working in proximity to cranes. In contrast, the CPWR—The
Center for Construction Research and Training report’s authors recommended that the
qualifications of riggers be certified. The CIRPC researchers asserted that “several types of crane-
related construction fatalities will not be reduced until crane operators are required to be qualified 18
and/or certified.” The CPWR researchers further recommended that crane operators be certified
by a nationally accredited testing organization. The CPWR would have crane inspectors be
certified as well. The CIRPC report additionally proposed having a “diligent” competent person
responsible for lifting operations “because often-times a competent person was present at the site
of a crane-related fatality but did not act in a diligent manner in assuring safety at the work
13 Construction Industry Research and Policy Center, University of Tennessee, Crane-Related Fatalities in the
Construction Industry, March 2005. (Hereafter cited as CIRPC, Crane-Related Fatalities in the Construction Industry.)
14 The 125 case files involved 126 cranes and 127 fatalities, with one event leading to three fatalities.
15 CIRPC, Crane-Related Fatalities in the Construction Industry, p. 16.
16 A serious violation is one where there is considerable likelihood that death or grave physical injury will occur and
that the employer knew, or should have known, about the hazard. A willful violation is one an employer commits with
indifference to the law.
17 Riggers use hand signals among other means to direct crane operators who are moving objects into place. Riggers
also decide what devices (e.g., pulleys) are strong enough for a given task and where to attach hooks and cables, for
example, to lift loads safely.
18 CIRPC, Crane-Related Fatalities in the Construction Industry, p. 17. A qualified person is defined at 29 CFR
1926.32(m) as “one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by
extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems
relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.”
site.”19 Similarly, the CPWR report endorsed the regulatory language proposed in the Consensus
Document produced in 2004 by the Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory
Committee: workers engaged in (dis)assembling cranes should be under the supervision of a 20
person “meeting both the definition of qualified person and competent person.”
OSHA establishes standards for industries covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of
1970 as amended (P.L. 91-596). Jurisdictions that choose to operate their own safety and health
programs must either adopt OSHA’s standards or promulgate regulations “at least as effective” as
the federal standards. Jurisdictions also may develop regulations covering hazards not addressed
OSHA’s safety standard on cranes, derricks, hoists, elevators, and conveyors in construction went 21
into effect in 1971. 29 CFR 1926 Subpart N is organized as follows:
1925.550(a) General requirements;
1926.550(b) Crawler, locomotive, and truck cranes;
1926.550(c) Hammerhead tower cranes;
1925.550(d) Overhead and gantry cranes;
1926.550(f) Floating cranes and derricks; and
1926.550(g) Crane or derrick suspended personnel platforms.
It was revised minimally (in 1988 and 1993) in the nearly four decades since its inception.
The 1971 rule is based partly on industry consensus standards from the mid-to-late 1960s. In a
July 2002 notice of intent to create a negotiated rulemaking committee, OSHA acknowledged the
updating of industry consensus standards and the substantial changes in crane technology that 22
occurred during the three decades since the regulation’s publication. It also noted that various
stakeholders had asked the agency to update what they considered to be an obsolete standard and
that some representatives had been working since 1998 with a cranes workgroup of the Advisory
Committee for Construction Safety and Health to develop changes to Subpart N. Among the
numerous key issues OSHA wanted the negotiated rulemaking committee to address were the
equipment to be covered by the rule; qualifications of persons who operate, maintain, repair,
assemble, and disassemble cranes and derricks; work zone control; crane operations near power
19 Ibid., p. 17. A competent person is defined at 29 CFR 1926.32(f) as “one who is capable of identifying existing and
predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to
employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
20 CPWR, Crane-Related Deaths in Construction, p. 4.
21 See http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10760.
22 Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Notice of Intent to Establish Negotiated Rulemaking Committee,”
Federal Register, vol. 67, no. 136, July 16, 2002. (Hereafter cited as Intent to Establish Negotiated Rulemaking
Committee, FR 2002.)
lines; load capacity and control procedures; crane inspection/certification records; verification
criteria for the structural adequacy of crane components; and stability testing requirements.
In July 2004, the members who had been appointed to the Crane and Derrick Negotiated
Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC) a year earlier voted favorably on an extensive
revision of the safety standard. One of the most difficult and last issues to be resolved concerned 23
verification of the skills of crane operators. Under the existing standard, the qualifications of
operators need not be validated. The C-DAC draft regulatory language requires certification of
crane operators and provides procedural options for doing so (e.g., certification by an accredited 24
operator testing organization).
The C-DAC Consensus Document contains language that is much more comprehensive and 25
precise than the existing standard. For example, to supplement the 1971 rule having the
employer follow the manufacturer’s instructions when assembling and disassembling (A/D)
cranes, the C-DAC draft regulations include a detailed list of hazards an A/D supervisor must
address in order to protect employees. The draft language also focuses much more than the
existing standard on the specific hazard of operating a crane near power lines. In addition, the C-
DAC Consensus Document addresses such other key issues as adequacy of ground conditions for
crane setup to help prevent tipovers; qualification requirements for signal persons; updated
requirements for cranes located on barges; and “safety devices, operational aids, signals, specific
types of equipment (such as derricks and tower cranes), inspections, wire rope, prototype design ”26
and testing, crushing and overhead hazards, fall protection and equipment modification.
C-DAC submitted the consensus regulatory language to OSHA in mid-2004. OSHA previously
had stated, by reference to the Negotiated Rulemaking Act, that
the agency, to the maximum extent possible consistent with legal obligations of the agency,
will use the consensus of the committee with respect to the proposed rule as the basis for the 27
rule proposed by the agency for notice and comment.
OSHA presented its initial regulatory flexibility analysis of the draft proposed rule to a panel
convened in mid-2006 under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act
(SBREFA). The SBREFA panel was composed of staff from the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB), the Small Business Administration, and OSHA. The panel issued its report to
OSHA in October 2006 on the views it had elicited from small business representatives with 28
regard to the draft proposed standard. The SBREFA report recommended that OSHA review its
23 “Final Agreement Reached on All Issues at Crane Rulemaking Group’s Last Meeting,” Daily Labor Report, July 14,
2004; and “With C-DAC Proposal in Hand, Next Step in Rulemaking Up to OSHA,” Daily Labor Report, July 29,
24 In 1999, OSHA entered into an agreement with the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators
that recognizes the organization’s program as verification of crane operators meeting the agency’s requirement for the
employment of a qualified person. “OSHA Reaffirms Agreement with National Commission for the Certification of
Crane Operators,” OSHA Trade News Release, August 6, 2002.
25 The consensus document is available at http://dockets.osha.gov/v/V046A/00/48/45.PDF.
26 “Consensus Reached on Recommendation for OSHA Cranes and Derricks Standard,” OSHA Trade News Release,
July 13, 2004.
27 Intent to Establish Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, FR 2002.
28 “Impact of Certification, Training Costs Needs Clarity,” Daily Labor Report, December 4, 2006. The panel’s report
is available at http://www.sba.gov/ADVO/laws/is_cranertp06_1017.pdf.
cost estimates related to the proposal’s sections on certification of crane operators, which small
businesses thought were understated, and then solicit comments on the revisions. In addition to
issues dealing with crane operator certification, the panel’s report highlighted concerns of small
businesses about fall protection, inspections, and ground conditions, among other things. It urged
OSHA to address these matters. Also in October 2006, OSHA’s Advisory Committee on
Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) unanimously approved the draft rule in its then current 29
form and encouraged the agency to quickly move it forward through the rulemaking process.
At a January 2008 meeting of ACCSH, some members expressed frustration at the years-long
delay in issuing a proposed rule. The director of OSHA’s Office of Construction Standards and
Guidance explained to the ACCSH that the C-DAC proposal was very detailed, which made
writing a history, explanation, and justification in the preamble very time-consuming. The
director also noted that other standards moving through the agency’s rulemaking process 30
competed for his office’s limited resources.
In May 2008, the director of OSHA’s Office of Construction Standards and Guidance again
appeared at a meeting of the ACCSH and informed it that an economic impact analysis of the 31
draft standard had been completed.The Labor Department’s Policy Planning Board completed
its review, and the proposed rule was submitted to OMB in June for up to 90 days of review.
Individuals met with OMB in summer 2008 about the proposed standard. Among those at the four
meetings were representatives of organized labor (e.g., International Union of Operating
Engineers; International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron
Workers) and management (e.g., Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, Steel Erectors
Association of America) as well as other interested parties (e.g., Nations Builders Insurance,
National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators). Most of these groups reportedly
want the updated standard to move forward, with the National Association of Home Builders
urging differentiation “between light, mobile cranes and large industrial cranes ... so that the rule
can properly address the needs and safety requirements for residential and light commercial crane 32
use.”On August 28, 2008, OMB completed its review of the draft proposed standard.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on October 8, 2008 (pp. 59714-59954).
It appears to largely reflect the regulatory language approved by C-DAC members in 2004 and
requests comment on those issues raised by the SBREFA panel. Public comments and hearing
requests initially were due by December 8, 2008. The comment period subsequently was
extended to January 22, 2009. Selected portions of the proposed rule are described very briefly
• Specifies in proposed section 1926.1402 that the “controlling entity” is
responsible for ensuring adequate ground conditions to prevent crane tip-over
incidents. Subpart N currently does not designate a responsible party. C-DAC
members thought this omission led to the various parties being unable to agree on
29 “ACCSH Advises Moving Forward with Agency Crane, Derrick Standard,” Daily Labor Report, October 19, 2006.
Transcripts of the meeting are available at http://www.osha.gov/doc/accsh/transcripts/accsh_101106.html and
30 The transcript of the January 2008 meeting is available at http://www.osha.gov/doc/accsh/transcripts/
31 “OSHA Staff Completes Economic Analysis of Crane Rule,” Daily Labor Report, May 21, 2008.
32 “Crane Safety Addressed in Georgia Word Stand-Down,” Nation’s Building News, August 25, 2008.
who was responsible and consequently, failing to ensure stable ground
• Sets out requirements at proposed sections 1926.1403 through 1926.1406 to
ensure worker safety while equipment is being assembled and disassembled. For
example, supervision of the process—including erecting and dismantling tower
cranes—must be done by an assembly/disassembly (A/D) supervisor who is
defined as both a competent and qualified individual. (Proposed section
• Although Subpart N addresses power line hazards by specifying a minimum
distance that must be maintained between the equipment and an energized power
line, there is only one preventive measure to help operators not breach that
distance. Implementation of various encroachment prevention measures are
required (e.g., use of a dedicated spotter to communicate with the crane operator
about distance from power lines). Power line safety is addressed in proposed
sections 1926.1407 through 1926.1411.
• C-DAC members proposed that an individual conducting certain types of
inspections (e.g., shift and monthly equipment inspections) be a competent
person, and other types of inspections (e.g., annual/comprehensive equipment
inspection), a qualified person—who by definition has a higher level of expertise
than a competent person. But, like Subpart N, proposed section 1926.1412 does
not require testing/evaluation of an equipment inspector’s qualifications. The
proposed rule does specify a procedure to ensure that signal persons have 33
qualifications sufficient to perform their jobs, however. Referring to the
increase in crane-related accidents since the C-DAC Document issued, OSHA
requests public comment on whether a similar protocol is needed for those who
inspect cranes. At the behest of the SBREFA panel, the agency also requests
comment on the required documentation associated with inspections.
• To ensure that operators are qualified, C-DAC offered employers four options:
(1) operator certification by an accredited independent crane/derrick testing
organization, (2) qualification by an employer’s own audited testing program, (3)
qualification by the U.S. military of its civilian federal employees, and (4)
licensing by a government entity that follows the same test content,
administration, and related criteria required under the first option. This
requirement, at section 1926.1427, would not go into effect until four years after
the final rule’s effective date, as C-DAC had proposed. In addition to asking that
OSHA request public comment about the certification/qualification of ,34
operators the SBREFA panel also recommended the agency request comment
about issues related to the training of operators (proposed section 1926.1430).
33 Under proposed section 1926.1428, signal persons qualifications, the employer has two methods to ensure the
competence of these individuals: (1) “the signal person would have documentation from a third party qualified
evaluator showing that the evaluator had determined that the signal person meets the [section’s] requirements,” and (2)
“an employer’s own qualified evaluator would have determined that a signal person meets the qualifications
34 The SBREFA panel expressed concern that there would be enough accredited crane operator testing entities and that
many employers would be unable “to set up and maintain an audited employer program under Option 2.”
Consequently, it recommended OSHA ask for public comment on whether Option 1 should be expanded to allow an
accredited educational institution to administer tests to operators. The panel raised other related issues (e.g.,
• Under proposed section 1926.1429, workers who maintain and repair
cranes/derricks must meet the criteria for a qualified person.
• Currently, Subpart N requires that when multiple cranes are used to lift a single
load there be one designated person responsible for the operation who instructs
all personnel involved. C-DAC members additionally call for the development of
a plan by a qualified person before beginning such an operation. If the qualified
person concludes that engineering knowledge is necessary for planning purposes,
the employer must make certain it is provided. Further, implementation of the
plan must be supervised by a competent and qualified person. Lastly, proposed
section 1926.1432 requires the supervisor review the plan with all persons
involved in the operation.
Most of the 24 states, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands that operate their own safety and health 35
programs for private or public sector workers have adopted OSHA’s standards.Some have
developed their own regulations concerning specific hazards in certain industries. For example, 36
according to OSHA’s 2001 report on “state-plan” activities,
Oregon requires certification for operators of cranes that are five tons or more.
The [California] Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) inspects tower cranes
... twice a year. DOSH must be notified 24 hours in advance whenever a tower crane begins
operation, is climbed or dismantled—and when a mobile tower crane begins operation.
[Subsequently, California required certification of crane operators and made other changes to 37
Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico among others also are identified by OSHA in its 2001 report as
being among state-plan states having their own crane regulations. Both Hawaii and New Mexico 38
require that hoist machine operators be certified, for example. Nevada instituted stricter crane
regulations in 1997, after a crane collapse in Laughlin resulted in three fatalities. The regulations
require Nevada’s occupational safety and health administration
oversight when cranes are erected or taken down and require contractors to cordon off areas
around cranes carrying particularly heavy loads. The law also requires cranes to undergo
accommodations for operators with low literacy levels and limited English proficiency) about which OSHA is
requesting public comment.
35 Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act encourages states to develop and operate their own programs,
which must be deemed by OSHA to be at least as effective as comparable federal standards. OSHA provides up to 50%
of the operating costs of an approved plan. Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky,
Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South
Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming currently have approved plans. So too do
Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. The Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Virgin Islands plans cover only state and
local government employees.
36 See http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/oshspa/2001_report/state_standareds.html.
37 See http://www.dir.ca.gov/Title8/5006_1.html and [http://www.dir.ca.gov/Title8/sb7g13.html.
38 See http://hawaii.gov/labor/hiosh/pdf/standards/8-28-07/12-136.1_pt3_8-29-07.pdf and
reviews by certified inspectors who don’t work for crane owners. In 2005, just in time for the
surge in growth on the Strip, lawmakers updated crane regulations to require that operators 39
pass a certification test conducted by an outside organization.
Minnesota and Utah require certification of crane operators as well.40 Their regulations also differ 41
from the federal crane standard in other ways. So, too, do Michigan’s regulations.
Effective in 2010, Washington will require that crane operators be certified. Washington’s
occupational safety and health department, labor and management developed the extensive crane 42
regulation following collapse of a tower crane in Bellevue that killed one person in 2006.
Jurisdictions also may regulate work performed at building construction sites in an effort to
protect the safety and property of their residents. For example, after a fatal crane accident
occurred in Florida’s Miami-Dade county in 2006, local officials worked “with industry leaders 43
on an ordinance that would beef up inspections and safety measures for lifting cranes.”The
ordinance became effective March 28, 2008; sections pertaining to the qualifications and 44
certification of crane operators will not go into effect until January 1, 2011. The responsible
agency is the county’s building code commission. Similarly, New York City’s building code 45
contains regulations pertaining to construction, including the operation of hoisting machinery.
After multiple fatalities occurred in two crane-related incidents in 2008, however, the city’s 46
building department developed additional crane safety proposals.
According to the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), 15
states and 6 cities require crane operators to be certified or licensed. Many of these states have
state-plan programs: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New
Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Other states that require licensing of crane
operators are Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Most of the 15 states
require or recognize NCCCO certification. Cities that require licensing of crane operators are
Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Omaha and Washington, DC, with New Orleans 47
and Omaha requiring or recognizing NCCCO certification.
39 Alexandra Berzon, “Construction Worker Deaths on the Strip,” Las Vegas Sun, June 30, 2008.
40 See http://www.leg.state.nv.us/nac/nac-618.html, https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/rules/?id=5205.1210, and
41 See http://www.michigan.gov/documents/CIS_WSH_part10c_35505_7.pdf, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/
42 See http://www.lni.wa.gov/wisha/rules/construction/HTML/296-155L_1.htm#WAC296-155-525.
43 Matt Sedensky, “Crane Accident at Florida Construction Site Causes Fatalities,” Insurance Journal, March 27, 2008.
44 See http://www.miamidade.gov/building/popupdatareader.asp?blobtopop=149.
45 See http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/bldgs_code/bc27s19.pdf, http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/
46 William Neuman, “City Tightens Its Regulation and Inspection of Cranes,” The New York Times, March 26, 2008;
Sharon Otterman, “City Proposes More Regulations to Improve Construction Safety,” New York Times, June 25, 2008.
47 See http://www.nccco.org. The NCCCO, an independent non-profit group, was created in 1995. It began offering
tests for mobile crane operators the following year. In the mid-2000s, tower crane and overhead crane operator
certification programs were added.
Specialist in Labor Economics