New federal rule has implications for crane maintenance, inspection
Matthew Shaw is regulatory compliance coordinator for the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.
By now, just about everyone in the equipment management industry is aware of sweeping new rules regarding cranes and derricks used in construction. Borne out of the Cranes and Derricks Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC), the new rule, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, affects just about every part of the lifting industry in some manner. The result of more than 10 years of work, this new rule was published in August 2010. Most of its provisions, including much of the inspection, maintenance and training requirements, became effective on November 8, 2010.
The rule covers all “power-operated equipment, when used in construction, that can hoist, lower and horizontally move a suspended load.” This includes all types of mobile, tower and overhead cranes, including mobile gantry cranes; articulating/knuckle boom cranes when used in certain applications; and less-conventional machines, such as pipelayers or sidebooom cranes. Generally speaking, if equipment is used in construction and is specifically designed to hoist and move a suspended load, it likely falls within the scope of 1926 Subpart CC.
Although operator certification is certainly one of the most widely talked about parts of the new federal rule, the new requirements for inspections and maintenance are just as vital and important to examine. Equipment managers should be keenly aware of these changes and how they affect their fleets, personnel and operations. The intention of this article is to take an overall look at parts of Subpart CC, including the inspection, maintenance and training requirements.
We’ll also be looking at the valuable information contained within the preamble of the published federal rule, which provides great insight into C-DAC and OSHA’s intentions with these new regulations.
Additionally, there are a couple of personnel qualification terms defined by OSHA’s new rule that will be of central importance throughout our look at the new inspection and maintenance requirements. Individuals familiar with previous OSHA regulations and ASME B30 standards will recognize them instantly.
Competent person means an individual “who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
Qualified person refers to a person “who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, successfully demonstrated the ability to solve/resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.”
OSHA’s definition (Preamble p. 47972) specifies that a competent person is someone who must have the authority to take prompt corrective action. A qualified person, however, is not required to have this authority. This does not diminish the qualified person’s status, however. In fact, OSHA considers the qualified person to be on a generally higher level of expertise than the competent person.
To better address inspector qualifications, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) has partnered with the Crane Certification Association of America (CCAA) for the development of a new crane inspector certification program. This new program, which began development in summer 2010, will provide comprehensive assessment of a crane inspector’s knowledge and skill, and is scheduled for release around the middle of this year.
Although OSHA has clearly detailed the specific types of inspections, this article also seeks to break down the types into basic groups, based upon the reason for inspection. It should also be noted that several types of cranes, including tower and barge-mounted cranes, as well as derricks, have their own supplemental inspection criteria.
Equipment change inspections are based upon some sort of change in the physical status of the equipment. There are four different types of equipment change inspections: modified equipment, repaired/adjusted equipment, post-assembly and pre-erection. The latter (pre-erection inspection) is specific only to tower cranes. All four types of inspections must be performed by a qualified individual, and none of these inspections require documentation to be maintained.
A modified equipment inspection is required by OSHA to assist in the determination that the modifications to the equipment have been in accordance with the requirements set in OSHA 1926.1434. This inspection includes functional testing of the equipment as a whole. OSHA was concerned that it’s possible for modifications to have an adverse affect on the entire piece of equipment and sees full operational testing as a means to help ensure it is safe to operate (Preamble pp. 47968).
The repaired/adjusted equipment inspection is intended to show that the equipment has been repaired according to the manufacturer or qualified person’s recommendations and restored to original design specifications. This inspection requires functional testing of all components that were or could have been affected by the repairs. OSHA hopes that this type of inspection, along with monthly inspections, will be sufficient in indentifying deficient repairs or adjustments (Preamble pp 47968).
A post-assembly inspection is performed after completion of assembly. OSHA’s intention here is to assure that the equipment has been configured according to manufacturer’s specifications. Like the previous equipment change inspections, OSHA requires a qualified person to perform the post assembly inspection.
Specifically regarding tower cranes, the agency wants each component inspected prior to erection. This pre-erection inspection is designed to help identify defects that would be hard to detect after the tower crane had been erected or hard to find during a normal shift inspection. OSHA feels that the individual performing the inspection would have to make determinations on deficiencies similar to those found during an annual/comprehensive inspection. Therefore, the rule requires the same level of knowledge and expertise of the qualified person performing the pre-erection inspection.
In the case of the modified and repaired equipment inspections, as well as the post-assembly inspection, OSHA mandates that the equipment must not be used until those aforementioned inspections have been performed and shown that the equipment meets the manufacturer’s and/or OSHA’s requirements. In some cases where the manufacturer’s specifications are unavailable, perhaps because of the company no longer being in business, OSHA does allow qualified registered professional engineers (RPEs) to develop the criteria and procedures for repair, adjustment or assembly. Whether or not an RPE is necessary must be determined by a qualified person [1926.1412(b) & (c)].
Regular interval inspections are performed on a regular basis.
Shift and monthly inspections differ from those previously mentioned because they must be performed by a competent person. OSHA noted in the preamble that it generally expects this person to be the operator of the equipment. However, by requiring a competent person to perform the inspection, OSHA allows the employer flexibility to choose someone other than the operator to perform the inspection. In fact, in cases where the operator is not a competent person in respect to inspections, the employer must use someone else who is competent.
The primary differences between the shift and monthly inspections are the documentation requirements. Shift inspections require no documentation, while monthly inspections do. These monthly inspection records must be kept by the employer for not less than three months. The primary purposes of these requirements are to help identify and track developing deficiencies, so that others who use the equipment can assess the previous inspection results.
The annual/comprehensive inspection must be conducted every 12 months by a qualified person and must be documented by the employer who performs the inspection. Documentation for this particular inspection must be kept for at least 12 months.
In the previous construction standard, OSHA 1926.550, a competent person was required to perform annual inspections. The new requirement for a qualified person versus a competent one was a conscious choice on the part of C-DAC and OSHA. They felt that the higher level of expertise was necessary because of the more thorough nature of this particular inspection. OSHA intends for the annual/comprehensive inspection to be able to identify those deficiencies that would not be normally caught by the shift and monthly inspections (Preamble pp.47972).
Service type inspections are performed due to extraordinary circumstances.
OSHA requires severe service inspections to be performed when there is a likelihood that damage or excessive wear, caused by extreme situations such as shock loading or exceeding the rated capacity, may have occurred. In these cases, a qualified person must inspect the equipment, identify any deficiencies and determine if the crane is able to safely continue operating under severe conditions.
When a particular piece of equipment has been out of service for three months or longer, OSHA felt that certain deficiencies could occur that could be dangerous if undetected prior to use. It requires that the equipment be inspected prior to initial use, following the same criteria of the monthly inspection. The only exception is that it must be performed by a qualified person. The agency felt that some defects or deficiencies caused by extended idle periods might only be detected by the qualified person’s higher level of expertise (Preamble pp. 47972).
Because inspection, maintenance and repair personnel can still encounter the same crane-related dangers faced by those working on a jobsite, OSHA has also sought to provide some requirements for these types of personnel. During its meetings, C-DAC recognized that maintenance and repair personnel have to run the crane periodically. It also acknowledged that the operations performed for maintenance and repair are not as extensive as for general construction operations.
OSHA ultimately decided not to require maintenance and repair personnel to be certified/qualified in the same manner as is required for crane operators. However, the OSHA rule does specify that the maintenance/repair personnel are only allowed to perform operations necessary for inspection, maintenance and/or repair. OSHA specifically states in the preamble that it does not permit these personnel to run the equipment for regular operations, unless they meet the operator qualification requirements in 1926.1427. Additionally, when these personnel do have to run the equipment, OSHA requires them to be familiar with the operations, limits, characteristics and hazards associated with the specific types of equipment. If they are not, then they must be under the direct supervision of an operator who does meet the qualification requirements.
The qualifications of maintenance and repair personnel are also briefly addressed by OSHA in 1926.1429(b), which states that they “must meet the definition of a qualified person with respect to the equipment and maintenance/repair tasks performed.”
Managers should also be aware that the changes to the federal regulations will also require additional training for their personnel. OSHA addresses this in 1926.1430 and specifies that employers are required to provide training for each competent and qualified person in the requirements of Subpart CC. This training must also be provided at no cost to the employee.
OSHA also wants each employee that requires training under 1926 Subpart CC to be evaluated in some manner. This does not necessarily mean formalized testing, though that would likely meet the agency’s requirements. Instead, OSHA has left the language flexible for everyone but crane operators and signal persons. For those two types of personnel, the agency is very clear on the testing requirements.
OSHA seems to indicate that the intention of this part of the new rule is to confirm that the training has been effective and that the personnel understand the material they’ve been taught. Based upon the preamble, OSHA also suggests that it doesn’t want “self-evaluations,” that is, an individual judging themselves to have been trained effectively (Preamble pp. 48034).
Although these changes are an extensive overhaul of previous regulations, they are also, in many ways, common sense solutions to existing problems. It is hoped that the end result of the implementation of these new regulations will be a reduction in crane-related accidents. With an estimate of 175 injuries and 22 fatalities that can be prevented annually, OSHA clearly believes this can be the case.