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Crane Safety by the Numbers — Lifting Projects Dictated by OSHA Rules, ASME Standards

Mon June 14, 2021 - National Edition

A contractor has to determine the type of operation or activity and the applicable rule or standard on a case-by-case basis.
A contractor has to determine the type of operation or activity and the applicable rule or standard on a case-by-case basis.
A contractor has to determine the type of operation or activity and the applicable rule or standard on a case-by-case basis. OSHA rules and ASME safety codes enhance public safety and offer best practices and applicable regulations within specific industries and jurisdictions. 
OSHA law often includes language from ASME standards. When more than one guidance applies to the lifting project, the end user should always follow the strictest rule.

The list of rules and regulations governing lifting and rigging procedures is long and varied.

The applicable guidance depends on the type of lift and whether it's being performed as part of a construction, general industry or military project. Often, the lifting job will be dictated by more than one regulation.

Projects involving cranes fall under four types of guidance: OSHA rule; ASME standard; manufacturer's instructions; or company policy.

OSHA law often incorporates ASME standards and is the best place to start for crane and rigging rules.

When more than one guidance applies, the end user should always follow the strictest rule, said Larry Kime, senior instructor of the Crane Inspection & Certification Bureau (CICB), Orlando, Fla.

Kime wrote about determining appropriate crane and rigging rules and regulations, and talked through applicable standards in a CICB video series.

In its rule, 29CFR1926.32 (g), OSHA defines ‘construction work' as work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.

"Throughout the OSHA rules, there is not a crystal clear definition for ‘maintenance,' nor a clear distinction between terms such as ‘maintenance,' ‘repair,' or ‘refurbishment,'" wrote Kime.

"‘Maintenance activities can be defined as making or keeping a structure, fixture or foundation (substrates) in proper condition in a routine, scheduled or anticipated fashion.'

"This definition implies ‘keeping equipment working in its existing state, i.e., preventing its failure or decline.'"

However, per OSHA, a contractor must determine whether he or she is engaged in maintenance operations or construction activities on a case-by-case basis, with all the information available.

"Construction work is also not limited to new construction, but can include the repair of existing facilities or the replacement of structures and their components," reads the OSHA rule.

For example, the replacement of one utility pole with a new, identical pole would be maintenance; however, if it were replaced with an improved pole or equipment, it would be considered construction, according to the agency.

"In addition, the scale and complexity of the project are relevant. This takes into consideration concepts such as the amount of time and material required to complete the job," said Kime.

If a steel beam in a building had deteriorated and was to be replaced by a new, but identical beam, the project would be considered a construction repair rather than maintenance because of the replacement project's scale and complexity.

Also, if a bridge was to be stripped and re-painted, that would be considered construction work even if the repainting were done on a scheduled basis.

Replacement of a section of limestone cladding on a building, though not necessarily a large project in terms of scale, would typically be considered construction because it is a complex task in view of the steps involved and tools and equipment needed to do the work.

"Simply adding a mobile crane to maintenance work could raise the level of work to the scope of construction," according to Kime.

"The interpretation provided by OSHA shows that it does not matter who uses the crane or where the crane is being used; if the crane is performing work that could be classified as construction, then the construction standards apply."

When an activity cannot be easily classified as construction or maintenance the "more protective" 1910 or 1926 standard should be applied depending on the hazard.

In such cases, the citation should be issued in the alternative with the emphasis on the more protective standard, according to the agency.

"Since crane operator qualifications/certification in the construction standards are more protective than the general industry standards, when there is a question as to whether an activity is construction or general industry, then the construction standards apply."

Kime said that CICB recommends all crane operators be trained and qualified/certified to the new Crane and Derrick Standard.

"Often, a job will be covered by more than one ruling. More than likely, it will be covered by four: an OSHA regulation; an ANSI standard; a manufacturer's instruction; and company policy," said Kime.

Beyond OSHA

OSHA's standards set the bar for the minimum in safety. When it comes to safety, more can and often should be done, said Michael Rubin of the law firm Goldberg Segalla, Buffalo, N.Y.

"This begs the question: What ‘more' can be done? Ask 10 different safety professionals and you may get 10 different answers — all of which could be right," wrote Rubin in a blog on the ASME B30 volumes.

"The general consensus, however, is that a comprehensive health and safety system is needed — complete with management commitment, employee participation, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control and training — all with a focus on continuous improvement."

However, he pointed out, there is something else, even more basic and immediately accessible, that could help.

ASME is recognized as a "leading international developer of codes and standards associated with the art, science and practice of mechanical engineering."

A not-for-profit membership organization, ASME has issued standards bearing upon multiple different industries, including — since 1924 — the crane industry with the B30 volumes.

"Anyone operating in the crane industry — including crane rental companies and contractors — will immediately enhance their safety performance by following the guidance and directives set forth in the B30 standards," said Rubin.

And for good reason, he continued: The B30 standards have been developed and updated over the years by committees of subject matter experts, who have a deep level of expertise, commitment and knowledge in the industry.

"As a result, to the extent one may be willing to venture beyond OSHA, relying upon those experts dedicated to the particular construction industry is worthwhile."

Consensus standards, such as B30 are often used as a shield, especially in personal injury lawsuits, said Rubin.

"The fact that a crane company deviated from a particular B30 standard may play a critical part in tipping the scales (and the crane) against the company."

On the other hand, he noted, a contractor's defenses will be considerably strengthened if the alleged conduct conformed to a B30 standard.

"The same is generally true in the context of an OSHA enforcement action — OSHA will have difficulty finding fault with conduct consistent with what the industry's leading experts endorse."

Rubin believes that a contractor can enhance his or her safety performance in a particular industry by referring to the guidance provided by the industry experts.

"Partnering with an insurance provider, insurance agent and legal counsel who fully understand your industry — including the applicable "regulations and standards" — is another important way to improve your operations and overall risk management efforts," he said.

Mike Close, marketing manager of Mazzella Companies, Cleveland, Ohio, would agree.

"ASME standards and safety codes are intended to enhance public safety and offer best practices and applicable regulations within specific industries and jurisdictions," said Close.

ASME B30 is identified as the "Safety Standard for Cableways, Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Hooks, Jacks, and Slings."

As Close explained, every couple of years, the B30 Committee reviews, revises and amends their existing standards and releases a new edition.

The committee revises the standards based on numerous considerations, including technological advances, new data, changing environment and industry needs.

"Today, ASME B30 exists as a suite of American National Standards with 30 unique volumes related to the design, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of different types of equipment utilized in construction processes."

The guidelines set forth by the experts on the B30 committee and subcommittees can help employers, manufacturers, end-users and contractors keep themselves out of harm's way and improve the safety performance and compliance of lifting and rigging equipment.

Here is a sample of the B30 volumes that apply to construction lifting and rigging:

  • ASME B30.1 — Jacks, Industrial Rollers, Air Casters and Hydraulic Gantries includes provisions that apply to the construction, operation, inspection, testing and maintenance of mechanical ratchet jacks, hand or power-operated mechanical screw jacks, hand or power-operated hydraulic jacks, air lifting bags, industrial rollers, air casters, telescopic hydraulic gantry systems and strand jacks.
  • ASME B30.3 — Tower Cranes applies to construction tower cranes and permanently mounted tower cranes powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines and that adjust their operating radius by means of a luffing boom mechanism, a trolley traversing a horizontal jib or a combination of the two.
  • ASME B30.5-2018 — Mobile and Locomotive Cranes addresses crawler cranes, locomotive cranes, wheel-mounted cranes and any variations that retain the same fundamental characteristics and are powered by internal combustion engines or electric motors.
  • ASME B30.6-2015 — Derricks applies to the construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing and maintenance of guy, stiffleg, basket, breast, gin pole, Chicago boom, shearleg, and A-frame derricks.
  • ASME B30.9-2018 — Slings includes provisions that apply to the fabrication, attachment, use, inspection, testing and maintenance of slings used for load handling purposes.
  • ASME B30.10 — Hooks includes provisions that apply to the fabrication, attachment, use, inspection and maintenance of hooks used for load handling purposes, in conjunction with equipment described in other volumes of the B30 Standard.
  • ASME B30.14 — Side Boom Tractors applies to the construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing and maintenance of side boom tractors powered by an internal combustion engine used for pipe laying or lifting operations, utilizing a lifting boom, drum, wire rope, and/or hydraulic cylinders.
  • ASME B30.20 — Below-the-Hook Lifting Devices includes provisions that apply to the marking, construction, installation, inspection, testing, maintenance and operation of below-the-hook lifting devices, other than components addressed by other ASME B30 volumes or other standards, used for attaching loads to a hoist.
  • ASME B30.22 — Articulating Boom Cranes applies to the construction, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of cranes with knuckle booms articulated by hydraulic cylinders, which are powered by internal combustion engines or electric motors and are mounted on a mobile chassis or stationary installation.
  • ASME B30.23 — Personnel Lifting Systems applies to hoisting equipment and accessory equipment covered within certain volumes of the ASME B30 Standard, that is used to lift, lower, or transport personnel in a platform, by wire rope or chain, from hoist equipment, or by a platform that is mounted on a boom of the hoist equipment.
  • ASME B30.26 — Rigging Hardware applies to the construction, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of detachable rigging hardware used for load handling activities in conjunction with equipment described in other volumes of the B30 Standard.
  • ASME B30.30 — Ropes includes provisions that apply to the construction, selection, installation, attachment, testing, inspection, maintenance, repair, use and replacement of wire rope, hybrid rope and synthetic fiber rope and rope-lifting components used in conjunction with equipment addressed in the ASME B30 Standard.

"While all 30 volumes of the B30 Safety Standard may not apply to the equipment you use, or the job you perform, there's a good chance that several standards will apply to the design, construction, use, inspection, and maintenance of equipment that you are using," said Close. CQ

This story also appears on Crane Equipment Guide.

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