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ASSE expert cites failures in OSHA's crane and derricks proposed rule (3/20)

March 20, 2009
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The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) expressed a variety of concerns focused on the failure to reference widely accepted national voluntary consensus standards addressing crane safety in the proposed updated federal ‘Cranes and Derricks in Construction Rule’ in testimony by ASSE professional member Matt Burkart, a crane safety expert from Southampton, Pa., who is a member of the A10 Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations Standards standard committee and chairman of the ASCE Construction Site Safety Committee at a public hearing held this week at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), according to an ASSE press statement.

The concerns reflect comments ASSE submitted in January to Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Acting Assistant Secretary Thomas M. Stohler for the record of the cranes and derricks rulemaking. In its comments, ASSE requested a hearing be held to discuss its concern that OSHA failed to reference the A10 or other national voluntary consensus standards addressing crane and derrick safety.

In ASSE’s January comments, ASSE President Warren K. Brown, CSP, ARM, CSHM, of Fairborn, Ohio, noted, “The safe operation cranes and derricks on construction sites is of the utmost importance to ASSE’s members. ASSE’s Construction Practice Specialty is ASSE’s largest practice specialty.”

In his testimony, Burkart brought attention to OSHA’s failure to fulfill its duty under law to consider voluntary consensus standards in rulemaking.

“We cannot help but come to that conclusion when the Proposed Rule fails to reference even once the ASC A10 standard Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations. The ASC A10 Committee for Construction and Demolition Operations is one of the oldest ANSI committees, chartered in 1931 and enjoying 78 years of continuous leadership in developing construction safety standards,” Burkart said. “The inability of OSHA to identify a key set of standards impacting crane safety is a significant failure by OSHA to perform meaningful background research and indicates the Agency failed to comply fully with Public Law 104-113.”

In his testimony, Burkhart also stated ASSE’s support for OSHA’s general approach to helping ensure that crane operators are qualified or certified to operate the equipment covered here. Burkart went on to say, however, “We urge OSHA to rewrite the proposed provisions to require that operator certifications be accredited by the same nationally recognized accrediting agencies that accredit organizations certifying the professional competence of safety and health professionals. Without this level of rigor, ASSE fears that unknown entities with little experience in professional certification will be able to establish certifications that do not adequately demonstrate professional crane operator competence and put at risk the advances in crane safety we all want.”

Burkart also urged OSHA to look closely at the negotiated rulemaking process used to develop this proposed rule to see if lessons can be learned to help improve the negotiated rulemaking process as a tool for engaging the entire safety and health community in OSHA’s rulemaking.

“While no approach to standards setting can be without challenges, negotiated rulemaking best mirrors the success of the voluntary consensus process and holds promise for some of the more difficult occupational safety and health issues,” Burkart said on behalf of ASSE.

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