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ASSE Member Testifies at Federal Hearing on Crane Safety

Posted in on Tue, Mar 17, 2009

Des Plaines, IL (March 17, 2009) — The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) expressed a variety of concerns focused on the failure to reference widely accepted national voluntary consensus standards addressing crane safety in the proposed updated federal ‘Cranes and Derricks in Construction Rule’ in testimony by ASSE professional member Matt Burkart, a crane safety expert from Southampton, PA, who is a member of the A10 Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations Standards standard committee and chairman of the ASCE Construction Site Safety Committee at a public hearing held this week at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The concerns reflect comments ASSE submitted in January to Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Acting Assistant Secretary Thomas M. Stohler for the record of the cranes and derricks rulemaking. In its comments, ASSE requested a hearing be held to discuss its concern that OSHA failed to reference the A10 or other national voluntary consensus standards addressing crane and derrick safety.

In ASSE’s January comments, ASSE President Warren K. Brown, CSP, ARM, CSHM, of Fairborn, OH, noted ASSE represents 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals who work with employers to protect workers and employers’ property from safety, health and environmental risks.

“Our members are experts in managing workplace safety and health issues in every industry, in every state and across the globe. They belong to sixteen ASSE practice specialties,” Brown said. “In fact, ASSE’s Construction Practice Specialty is ASSE’s largest practice specialty. ASSE is also the Secretariat for various ANSI voluntary consensus standards related to safe practices in construction, including the A10 Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations, the Z359 Fall Protection Code, and Z490.1-2001Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health and Environmental Training. The safe operation cranes and derricks on construction sites is of the utmost importance to ASSE’s members.”

In his testimony, Burkart brought attention to OSHA’s failure to fulfill its duty under law to consider voluntary consensus standards in rulemaking.

“We cannot help but come to that conclusion when the Proposed Rule fails to reference even once the ASC A10 standard Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations. The ASC A10 Committee for Construction and Demolition Operations is one of the oldest ANSI committees, chartered in 1931 and enjoying 78 years of continuous leadership in developing construction safety standards,” Burkart said. “The inability of OSHA to identify a key set of standards impacting crane safety is a significant failure by OSHA to perform meaningful background research and indicates the Agency failed to comply fully with Public Law 104-113.”

Public Law 104-113, the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1965, requires all federal agencies to “use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, using such technical standards as a means to carry out policy objectives or activities determined by the agencies and departments.”

“ASSE’s members have had extensive and successful experience in helping develop occupational safety and health standards through consensus building in the ANSI voluntary standards development process, including national standards impacting the safe operation of cranes and derricks,” Burkart explained. “We already work successfully in managing crane safety through these voluntary consensus standards. Therefore, we need clarity and consistency between the existing voluntary standard and a final OSHA standard.”

In his testimony, Burkhart also stated ASSE’s support for OSHA’s general approach to helping ensure that crane operators are qualified or certified to operate the equipment covered here. Burkart went on to say, however, “We urge OSHA to rewrite the proposed provisions to require that operator certifications be accredited by the same nationally recognized accrediting agencies that accredit organizations certifying the professional competence of safety and health professionals. Without this level of rigor, ASSE fears that unknown entities with little experience in professional certification will be able to establish certifications that do not adequately demonstrate professional crane operator competence and put at risk the advances in crane safety we all want.”

Burkart also urged OSHA to look closely at the negotiated rulemaking process used to develop this proposed rule to see if lessons can be learned to help improve the negotiated rulemaking process as a tool for engaging the entire safety and health community in OSHA’s rulemaking.

“While no approach to standards setting can be without challenges, negotiated rulemaking best mirrors the success of the voluntary consensus process and holds promise for some of the more difficult occupational safety and health issues, Burkart said on behalf of ASSE.

Other areas of the proposed rule that concern ASSE include hoisting and rigging; confusing equipment definitions such as for fall protection, competent person and ground conditions; concern that OSHA did not reference the national voluntary consensus standard with regard to use of different derricks; selection of manufacturer or employer procedures for assembly/disassembly and general requirements; power line safety; inspections; wire rope inspections; general requirements for signals; overall fall protection; work area control; operator qualification and certification; training; hoisting personnel; multiple-crane/derrick lifts; design, construction and testing; and, overhead and gantry cranes.

The current OSHA safety standard for cranes and derricks was written in 1971. In July 2004, a 23-member industry and union OSHA advisory committee issued a recommendation that OSHA update its outdated standards on crane and derrick safety and proposed a revised standard, including specific rules on crane assembly.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information please go to

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