On the day (May 30, 2008) of the latest fatal crane collapse in New York City, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York fired off a letter to OSHA chief Edwin Foulke “to call on you to issue the long overdue safety standards for cranes and derricks, and to provide an explanation for your failure to act until now.”

Current OSHA safety standards for cranes and derricks were written in 1971, wrote Sen. Clinton. “Crane technology has changed in numerous ways in the last 37 years, and many of the current standards are now obsolete. In July 2004, a 23-member industry and union OSHA advisory committee issued a recommendation that OSHA update its antiquated and outdated standards on crane and derrick safety. The committee even proposed a revised standard, including specific rules on crane assembly. Nonetheless, almost four years after the advisory committee made its proposal, OSHA has failed to promulgate a proposed rule.

“This delay is inexplicable and inexcusable. Casualties due to crane accidents are occurring at an alarming rate. According to industry experts, a crane is by far the most dangerous piece of equipment on a construction site. Industry and labor leaders have joined together to propose an updated set of standards and are urging their adoption. Under these circumstances, four years is more than enough time to issue standards designed to prevent more needless deaths and injuries.”

Sen. Clinton asked OSHA to give her a date for promulgating the crane and derrick standards and explain the nearly four-year delay in issuing even a proposal.

The blog, OSHA Underground, had its own answer: “Ed needs more time to study any new regs. He wouldn't want to make the rule burdensome to business. WE expect Ed to do nothing in the interim other than feign concern.”

At press time, there was no official word from OSHA. At a May 15 meeting of OSHA’s construction advisory committee, an agency official said it was “within the realm of the possibility” the standard could be proposed by this fall.