Toppling cranes seem to have grabbed more construction-related headlines in 2008 than rampage backhoe-loaders in Jerusalem or diesel thefts from construction sites. Just when you think we've seen the last deadly crane accident of the year, another one comes tumbling down in New York, Las Vegas, or — the latest — Houston.
The epidemic has caused frustration among already-furious crane experts who have long insisted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration update its standards on crane safety, which hasn't seen a major revision since 1971.
In June, public policy mediator Susan Podziba wrote about OSHA's outdated regulations in a New York Times Op-Ed piece following a deadly crane accident in New York. She says that OSHA hired her in 2003 to organize a team of crane manufacturers, operators, contractors, and other industry experts to revise the federal crane and derrick regulations.
"Everyone agreed that the current regulations are archaic and fail to address the daily hazards faced by construction workers," Podziba writes. In 2004 the group concurred on a set of revised standards which, according to an OSHA analysis, "would prevent 37 to 48 worker deaths per year."
Those rules have yet to be published. And unless the new crane standards make it into the OSHA books before Nov. 1, it may be years before they can be amended. White House chief of staff John Bolten announced in March that no proposed rules are to be published after June 1, and no final regulations after Nov. 1 "except in extraordinary circumstances."
The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators has pressured OSHA throughout the year to publish the revised rules. In July, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers also called for timely completion of the standards.
The rules recently moved from the House Committee on Education and Labor to the Office of Management and Budget, which has 90 days to review them.