Crane Safety: New Federal Rules Will Require State-Level Changes

AGC of Washington and its partners on the crane stakeholders group testified last week before the Joint Senate/House Commerce and Labor Committee to give an update on the new crane and operator certification requirements in light of the recently-adopted federal crane rule.

Mark Gauger Safety Manager for GLY Construction told the committee that what the state put in place regarding crane safety is “a good safe workable standard.” There are however a few lingering concerns including the definition of construction that presents differences of interpretation confusion with regard to the grandfathered maritime crane rules and the fact that few testing organizations test for all of the industry requirements.

The process to enact the legislation creating the requirement for certified cranes and operators was considered Phase I. Phase II will deal with site-specific rules including employer responsibilities that haven’t been updated since the 1970s.

The crane stakeholder group will have its work cut out for it not only because there are still those Phase I areas of concern to iron on while the Phase II process is underway but also because OSHA released new federal crane rules in July which the state much match or exceed. Since much of the work on the federal rules was done outside the view of industry groups WA State’s stakeholder group has only recently been able to begin comparing the new federal rules with the state’s and determining what adjustments the state might have to make.

Mandi Kime AGC’s Safety Director told the Joint Commerce and Labor Committee that one of the major differences between the federal and state rules is that the state at the urging of AGC and others exempted small truck-mounted cranes from the certification rules. The new federal rules however do not provide this exemption so the state will no longer be able to provide the exemption.

Other differences between the federal and state rules noted Kime have to do with the language for “qualified” riggers; inspection frequency and requirements; rigging inspection requirements; and power line safety.

The state only has until May 2011 to comply with the federal rules but DOSH has already alerted its federal counterpart that it may take longer than that.

Despite the challenges that lie ahead both Gauger and Kime praised the collaboration among DOSH and business and labor groups in working through Phase I and hope the same process will be used going forward.

“We honestly feel that Washington State continues to be a recognized leader in crane safety” said Kime. “We are excited to be an active partner with DOSH and the other entities to lead the way.”

The hearing before the Joint Senate/House Commerce and Labor Committee was televised by TVW. To view the full hearing click here. Kime’s testimony is at the 1:22.50 mark and Gauger’s is at the 1:38.20 mark.