In the wake of a number of construction crane accidents in the past three months that claimed at least 11 lives, in several states, the crane industry is calling for nationwide safety standards. An industry council agreed on a set of standards in July 2004 and recommended them to the Department of Labor, but the proposal hasn’t been acted on by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Bill Smith, president of NationsBuilders Insurance Services, which provides insurance to crane operators, made this comment:
It cannot be overemphasized that the time for action is now. National uniformity of standards is essential and government must expedite the process.
The proposed standards include a requirement that all crane operators obtain licenses, either under state programs or from accredited groups. Fifteen states currently have similar rules, including New York, where two of the recent accidents have taken place. Florida, where a third accident occurred, doesn’t require certification, but apparently is one of five states considering doing so. The proposed rules, which also cover crane design and construction, have been sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for review. After the review, the public will then comment on the rule for another 12 to 18 months before it can be issued.
OSHA’s existing rules for workers who operate cranes have not been updated since 1971, though the agency acknowledges modernized standards could help prevent future accidents. Dozens are killed each year in crane accidents. In 2006 – the most recent year for which federal numbers are available – 72 workers were killed. In May, the Labor Department estimated there are as many as 82 fatalities annually associated with cranes in construction. The Department said a more up-to-date standard would help prevent deaths. I have to wonder why the government hasn’t put this safety issue on its top priority list.
Source: Insurance Journal
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