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The New OSHA Crane Regulations

(November 2010) posted on Tue Oct 19, 2010

Here are some key points you should know.

By Darrel Wilkerson Jr.

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Expanded requirements also affect training operators and crew members, clearance below power lines, assembly and disassembly around power lines, traveling under power lines, etc.
Although cranes with a rated lift capacity of 2,000 lbs. or less are exempt from needing certified crane operators, they must still comply with most of the other new regulations. Power-line clearances, inspections (shift, monthly and annual), signals, fall protection, training of operators, etc., are all still employer requirements.
More than a dozen types of lifting equipment are exempt from this OSHA regulation (although they’re covered by other regulations): excavators; backhoes; automotive wreckers and tow trucks; digger derricks (used to auger holes for poles carrying electric and telecommunication lines); vehicle-mounted aerial devices for lifting personnel; mechanics’ trucks with hoisting devices used for equipment maintenance and repair, tree trimming and tree removal; and material delivery used only to deliver materials to a construction site (transfer material from truck to ground without arranging materials in a particular sequence).
Required safety devices on equipment now include: a crane-level indicator (which shows whether the crane has been properly leveled before beginning operations), boom stops (except for hydraulic booms, to prevent overextending the crane tubes), hydraulic outriggers with an integral holding device/check valve (to prevent the outriggers from moving, lowering etc. while the crane is in operation), a built-in horn or one on the equipment that’s immediately available to the operator (it could be a built-in, automotive- type horn and button or as simple as a handheld “boat” type horn). All the required safety devices must be in proper working order before operations may begin.
The required “operational aids” include:
• A boom-hoist limiting device or temporary limiting devices of either a boom-angle indicator or a clearly marked boom-hoist cable.
• An anti two-blocking device that automatically prevents damage from contact between the load block, overhaul ball and the boom tip, or a temporary alternative of clearly marking the cable to give the operator enough time to stop the hoist before contact of the ball and boom tip.
• A boom-angle or radius indicator readable from the operator’s area, or a temporary alternative for measuring the radii or boom angle.
• A boom-length indicator (for telescopic equipment) or a temporary alternative of measured marks on the boom to calculate boom length, measure boom extension or calculate boom length from boom angle or radius measurements. Cranes with a rated capacity of more than 6,000 lbs. must have either a load-weighing device, a load-moment indicator, a load-moment limiter or a temporary alternative for assessing load weight, as determined by an industry recognized source (manufacturer’s weight receipt, bill of lading, etc.) or by a calculation method recognized by the industry (12-in. steel pipe with a ½-in. wall thickness weighs 61.41 lbs. per foot times the length of the pipe).

Any person who will give “signals” to the crane operator must be qualified by either a third-party evaluator or the employer’s qualified evaluator. The signal person must know the type of signals used, have a basic understanding of equipment operation and limitations, and demonstrate they meet the requirements through an oral or written test, as well as a practical test. Signals may be by voice or audible (new signals can be used, but they must be as effective as hand, voice or audible signals). OSHA has designated the “standard method” of hand signals, which must be used.
The new regulations also expand upon “ground conditions” and who’s responsible to determine the ability of the ground to support the equipment. Responsibility for ground conditions initially is with the controlling entity for the project (the owner or jobsite superintendant), and, if no controlling entity is available, the requirement shifts to the crane operator’s employer.
The new regulations greatly expand requirements for tower cranes, derricks, floating cranes and land cranes on barges, overhead and gantry cranes, pile drivers and side booms.
As I worked on this article, a local construction-site accident with a crane resulted in one employee being killed and another one injured. It appeared that a falling jib section caused the accident.
Would the new regulations (in force and enforced) have prevented this tragic accident? Possibly, because the regulations specifically address assembly and disassembly operations, as well as who can be in the “fall zone.”
Will these new regulations eliminate all accidents with cranes? Probably not, because people make mistakes. However, if implemented, they can help reduce the potential for accidents and make a workplace area safer.
Will they increase operational costs for companies who own and operate cranes? Yes, but if managed properly, the cost can be kept at a reasonable level. And everyone will be required to comply with the same standards, which should put everyone on a “level playing field.”
Did I cover all the new crane and operator regulations? Not even close! It’s hard to review a 200-page document in just 1,500 words. I would recommend everyone go to OSHA’s website (, download the new regulations and read them for yourself, to see how they will apply to you and your business.
Safety is in everyone’s best interest, and, as we say at my local volunteer fire department, “think safe, act safe, and at the end of the day, we all go home.” Be safe.


Darrel Wilkerson Jr. is vice president at Wilkie Mfg. LLC (Oklahoma City), which has been manufacturing cranes for more than 30 years.


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