OSHA Publishes Long-Awaited Crane Rule

Earlier today, OSHA published its long-awaited final rule on cranes and derricks in construction. We've been following this rule's slow progress for two years now, since a March 2008 crane collapse at a New York construction site killed six workers and a tourist. At the time, Celeste pointed out, "OSHA acknowledges that as many as 82 workers are killed each year in crane 'accidents,' and that the 1971-based crane safety standard is outdated."

OSHA actually looked like it was addressing this issue back in 2003, when it established a negotiated rulemaking committee (which included manufacturers, suppliers, and users of cranes) and asked it to agree on regulatory text for a crane and derricks rule within one year. The committee completed this task in July of 2004 ... and then it took OSHA another two years to complete the SBREFA process, which lets small businesses comment ahead of other stakeholders and potentially convince the agency to make changes to pre-proposed rules. (Celeste's June 2008 post has more details on all of this.) The December 2006 Regulatory Agenda from Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao indicated that the proposed rule on crane and derrick safety would be published in October 2007; it was actually published a year later.

The promised crane safety rule didn't materialize during the Bush administration. The Obama administration finally moved forward with it, though not as quickly as we'd have liked.

Today, six years after the negotiated rulemaking committee completed its work, we finally have an updated safety standard for cranes and derricks in construction. For millions of construction workers, this is good news. For one determined mother, it must be a bittersweet day.

After Celeste published one of her many posts about the frustrating slow progress of the crane rule, a man named Rick Power posted a comment:

On Tuesday February 3rd, 2009 my nephew was fatally injured while dismantling a 100 ton crane at a construction site located in St. Louis, MO.

He was a 21 year old apprentice. He had six months of construction related experience prior to his fatal injury.

After reading the Crane and Derricks in Construction Proposed Rule it is quite apparent that had this proposed rule been an actual rule and properly followed he would still be with us today.

This 21-year-old apprentice was Steven Lillicrap, who was working for subcontractor Ben Hur Construction on a building project in Maryland Heights, Missouri. He was disassembling a crane when his safety harness got caught in the cables, and suffered fatal crushing injuries to his upper body.

Celeste got in touch with Rick Power and Diane Lillicrap, Steven's mother, to help answer their questions about the OSHA investigation process and the delayed crane rule. Celeste also put them in touch with United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities, which offers support, guidance and resources for family, friends and co-workers of individuals who have died from work-related causes. Like many of the members of USMWF, Diane Lillicrap has become a powerful advocate for improved workplace safety, speaking with members of Congress and state and federal OSHA officials about why her son died and what changes are needed to keep other workers from the same fate.

Today, OSHA's news release summarizes what the new crane safety rule will do and why it's important (full text of the rule is here):

"The rule addresses critically important provisions for crane operator certification, and crane inspection, set-up and disassembly," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "Compliance with the rule will prevent needless worker injuries and death, and provide protection for the public and property owners."

The new rule is designed to prevent the leading causes of fatalities, including electrocution, crushed-by/struck-by hazards during assembly/disassembly, collapse and overturn. It also sets requirements for ground conditions and crane operator assessment. In addition, the rule addresses tower crane hazards, addresses the use of synthetic slings for assembly/disassembly work, and clarifies the scope of the regulation by providing both a functional description and a list of examples for the equipment that is covered.

In a web chat about the new rule, Assistant Secretary Michaels quantified the expected impact of the rule, writing, "OSHA anticipates that this standard will prevent 22 fatalities and 175 non-fatal injuries each year."

This rule comes too late to save Steven Lillicrap, and many other workers who died in preventable crane disasters while OSHA delayed it. But like so many other family members who've lost loved ones to workplace tragedies, Diane Lillicrap pushed for its publication because she wants to keep other families from facing such a terrible loss.

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Steven Lillicrap, 21, started his shift at about 7:30 am on a cold Feb 3, 2009 at a construction site near St. Louis, Missouri. He was an apprentice Operating Engineer and this was his first big assignment. He would be working with more experienced men to dismantle a 100-ton crawler crane. The…

Happy Birthday Diane!

By Jane and Jay (not verified) on 28 Jul 2010 #permalink

As a person who at times works on and around cranes I'm glad to see the new rules.

Not every operator or owner is happy, a lot of them would rather go back to the day when riding the ball and jumping the load were routine. When operators were expected to 'wing-it' with half-assed setups and working it with two wheels off the ground to save time. When any that wouldn't risk it were fired.

I just wanted to thank everyone for helping my sister Diane our family and our friends.

Things will never be the same for our without Steven here on earth. However I can say that by getting Dian and other family members and friends involved to insure that lessons are learned from Steven's fatal accident has helped in the healing process.

The message that OSHA has sent with Dian's vidio included with the news release of the final rule for the revised crane and derricks in construction standard changes the way OSHA communicates with employers and employees about why there is a need for work standards and why they must be followed in order to protect employers and workers.

We shouldnât eliminate and control hazards because there is a safety cop implementing rules and watching us to making sure we follow them. We should do it because we have a moral obligation to ourselves, our families and our co workers to work safe and to go home injury free and healthy at the end of the day.

Hopefully this message will reach many people and help to achieve our goals of making something positive from Steven's accident and insuring that lessons are learned and to prevent something similar from happening to someone else.

Thanks again for your everyone's help and support especially Saint Celeste.

Rick Power

By Rick Power (not verified) on 30 Jul 2010 #permalink

The new rules may be over due, but as a crane mechanic with more years than I'd like to admit under my belt, I can assure that OSHA or any one else can not fix Stupid. YOU are responsible for your own safety too. Common sense goes a long way

By Bill Manton (not verified) on 10 Nov 2010 #permalink