Eyes wide open

By Joel Dandrea07 May 2008

People who are unfamiliar with the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association might be tempted to say that the recent crane incidents in New York City and Miami should be heeded as a wake-up call for our organization. They would be mistaken.

Our eyes have always remained wide open concerning the importance of safety in our industry. In the late 1980s, the association's members came together in an effort to resolve crane safety concerns. That work resulted in the creation of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) in January 1995 as an independent nonprofit organization.

By providing a thorough, independent assessment of operator knowledge and skills, NCCCO seeks to enhance lifting equipment safety, reduce workplace risk, improve performance records, stimulate training, and give due recognition to the professional skill of crane operation. Two new certification programs, signalperson and rigger, should be available by the end of 2008 after a few years of development.

Today, 15 states and six cities have licensing requirements for crane operators. Nine of these states and two cities require or recognize NCCCO certification. SC&RA believes these requirements should extend to all states.

Operator certification is one component of the recommended proposal for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard, Cranes and Derricks in Construction. Some of the other sections cover signalperson qualifications, qualifications of maintenance and repair workers, inspections and proper signals.

Our association has been at the forefront of efforts to update this standard. An SC&RA representative was among 23 individuals appointed by OSHA in July 2003 to develop a recommended proposal for this standard.

OSHA instructed these members of the Cranes and Derricks Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC) to negotiate all aspects of the new standard within one year. After meeting nearly every month, C-DAC accomplished that significant task.

The promulgation process has since languished within the Department of Labor. On February 26, SC&RA wrote to the Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department has jurisdiction over OSHA, to express concern that the lack of progress remains a disservice to the industry and the delays are not within the spirit of Negotiated Rulemaking.

While taking a proactive role to encourage fair, effective safety regulations, SC&RA has a responsibility to protect members from overly aggressive measures – particularly at the state and local levels – that hamstring the manufacturers, owners and operators of crane, rigging and specialized transportation equipment without providing real safety assurances. Unfortunately, the recent incidents could lead to a call for undue, counterproductive measures by those without an understanding of the industry.

Although the investigations of the accidents continue as this is being written, evidence suggests human error as the root cause of the accidents, not crane failure.

Tower cranes are a proven, reliable technology that have been used successfully in construction projects since the 1940s. Of the more than 3,000 tower cranes in North America, about 2,100 are in use on any given day. Based on a conservative estimate of 50 lifts daily per crane, more than 105,000 lifts are executed daily.

SC&RA's Allied Industries members tirelessly work to make their equipment even safer, often in consultation with fellow members that own and use the equipment. Every major SC&RA meeting features sessions on safety and risk management.

The association also continues to produce new or updated training videos, manuals and other tools every year to ensure our industry operates as safely as possible. You may learn more about these products by reviewing the latest SC&RA Product Catalog at www.scranet.org/store.

Our association clearly takes safety responsibilities very seriously. Any injury or fatality within our industry is one too many.

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