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[Excerpt] The safety of construction workers who toil in close proximity to cranes garnered congressional attention after tower cranes were involved in multiple fatalities at buildings under construction in 2008 (e.g., nine deaths in two incidents in New York City). Additional crane-related fatalities occurred since the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on construction worker safety in June 2008, including four employees of a Louisiana-based construction firm who died when the contractor’s mobile crane fell at a Houston refinery.

Construction historically has been the most hazardous industry as measured by number of fatalities. With 1,178 out of 4,956 on-the-job fatalities in the private sector in 2007, no other industry ranks higher than construction. The majority of construction deaths usually result from falls and transportation accidents (e.g., 38% and 24%, respectively, in 2007), according to the classification system of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. In contrast, most construction fatalities involving cranes are caused by contact with objects and equipment (e.g., struck by a falling crane). In 2007, contact with objects and equipment accounted for 71% of crane-related deaths of workers in the construction industry. An analysis of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) files of construction fatalities involving cranes most frequently found violations of the following federal construction safety standard: 29 CFR 1926 Subpart N — Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators and Escalators.

OSHA’s crane and derrick standard has been virtually unchanged since its promulgation in 1971. In a July 2002 notice of intent to create a negotiated rulemaking committee, OSHA acknowledged that industry consensus standards had been updated and crane technology had changed considerably over three decades. The Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee voted favorably on an extensive revision to the standard in July 2004 and submitted draft regulatory language to OSHA at that time. After slowly proceeding through the rulemaking process, OSHA submitted a draft proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in June 2008. OMB completed its review on August 28, 2008. Even if OSHA publishes a notice of proposed rule making in early fall, comments of OSHA administrator Foulke at the Education and Labor Committee hearing suggest an updated crane standard is unlikely to become final before the end of 2008.

Although most of the 21 states that operate their own safety and health programs for private sector workers have adopted OSHA’s standards, some have developed more stringent regulations for specific hazards in certain industries. For example, many of these states require certification of crane operators: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington (in 2010). To protect the safety and property of their residents, other jurisdictions have promulgated regulations requiring certification of crane operators as well: Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Miami-Dade county, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, and Omaha.


Levine, L. (2008). Worker safety in the construction industry: The crane and derrick standard. (RL34658). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.