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Delayed Crane Safety Requirements Increase Georgia Construction Accident Risks

Last summer, a 21-year-old worker was killed in a Macon crane accident, after the arm of the crane snapped and pinned him against a trailer.
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Then just recently, crews at an Atlanta sewage plant suffered a scare when a crane collapsed in the midst of their work day. Thankfully, no one was hurt in that incident.

Our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers know that these incidents are far too frequent, and both occurred years after the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration issued updated rules for crane operator safety requirements. First ordered in 2010, the new requirements were supposed to take full effect by the end of this year.

However, apparently bowing to pressure from the construction industry, OSHA has decided to extend the time that employers have to bring their staff into compliance by an additional three years. Now, instead of being required to comply by November 2014, construction companies will have until November 2017.

In the meantime, we fully anticipate seeing more injuries resulting from Georgia crane accidents.

Under the current rules, employers must make sure that those who operate cranes are competent to safely operate the equipment. If the assigned worker doesn’t have the required knowledge or ability to operate the crane, the employer is responsible for training the worker to ensure that each operator is evaluated and to affirm that he or she understands the training that has been provided.

Of course, this is a very broad allowance for someone who is entrusted to operate powerful equipment that can weigh up to several tons. Even drivers of motor vehicles are required to undergo courses to obtain a license.

Under the new rules proposed by OSHA, crane operators would finally have to do the same. They could obtain certification in one of four ways:

  • Undergo an accredited course and be tested every five years;
  • Train through an audited employer program, and be tested every five years;
  • Obtain a crane operator training through the U.S. military;
  • Obtain state and local licenses, which would be valid only in the jurisdiction noted and only for the length of the validation schedule, not to exceed five years.

It would seem simple enough, but the construction industry voiced loud opposition at numerous public meetings. They asserted concerns about the requirements and the “undue burden” it would place on the industry to have the requirements met within the time frame ordered.

Keep in mind, they’ve had four years since the initial rule was announced. By the time the rule is officially enacted (assuming it’s not once again pushed back), it will be seven years.

A 2008 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that there were an average of 78 crane-related fatalities annually between 2003 and 2006. Of the 72 reported in 2006, 30 were caused by workers being struck by falling objects. Nine were due to the crane itself striking the worker. The rest were killed when an object being transported by the crane fell onto them.

There are some instances in which the manufacturer may be responsible for a faulty crane. However, operator error is often cited in fatal crane accidents.

Crane operators themselves account for a small portion of fatalities. Those who are most likely to be injured are killed include construction laborers, electricians, welders and brazers.

Most crane fatalities, the BLS reported, occurred in the private construction industry, followed by the private manufacturing and private mining industries.

For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.

Additional Resources:
Crane collapses at northeast Atlanta sewer project site, Feb. 20, 2014, By Mike Morris, Atlanta-Journal Constitution
OSHA issues proposed rule to extend compliance date for crane operator certification requirements, Feb. 7, 2014, Press Release, Occupational Safety & Health Administration

More Blog Entries:
Georgia Work Injuries & Amputation Risks, March 8, 2014, Atlanta Work Injury Lawyer Blog