Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Crane and Hoist Safety


More than 250,000 crane operators (1) and a very large but undetermined number of other workers and the general public are at risk of serious and often fatal injury due to accidents involving cranes, derricks, hoists, and hoisting accessories. There are approximately 125,000 cranes in operation today in the construction industry as well as an additional 80,000-100,000 in general and maritime industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 79 fatal occupational injuries were related to cranes, derricks, hoists, and hoisting accessories in 1993. (2) OSHA's analysis of crane accidents in general industry and construction identified an average of 71 fatalities each year. (3) While we lack adequate worker exposure data to calculate the risk of death for the entire population exposed, the risk of death among crane operators alone is significant, corresponding to a risk of more than one death per thousand workers over a working lifetime of 45 years. OSHA is developing an action plan to gather additional information and reduce worker exposures to this hazard but is not initiating rulemaking at this time.

Hazard Description

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reports 79 fatal occupational injuries related to cranes, derricks, hoists, and hoisting accessories in 1993. (2) In 1992 OSHA reviewed the accident investigation files of 400 crane incidents in general industry and construction over a 5 year period and identified 354 fatalities, an average of 71 fatalities per year. (3) While we lack adequate worker exposure data to calculate the risk of death for the entire population exposed, the risk of death among crane operators alone is significant. BLS identified eight fatal injuries in 1993 among crane and tower operators, this corresponds to a risk of more than one death per thousand workers (1.4) over a working lifetime of 45 years. According to the 1987 Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) supplementary data system (23 states reporting), over 1,000 construction injuries were reported to involve cranes and hoisting equipment. However, underreporting of crane-related injuries and fatalities, due to misclassification and a host of other factors, masks the true magnitude of the problem.

The 1989 catastrophic tower crane collapse in downtown San Francisco and the 1993 mobile crane accident near Las Vegas heightened public awareness to the continuing problem of crane accidents. Since crane activities normally occur in urban areas, unsafe equipment and operations present a risk not only to workers, but to the general public as well. Two citizens were killed in San Francisco and three were killed in Nevada.

OSHA's analysis also identified the major causes of crane accidents to include: boom or crane contact with energized power lines (nearly 45% of the cases), under the hook lifting device, overturned cranes, dropped loads, boom collapse, crushing by the counter weight, outrigger use, falls, and rigging failures. (3)

Some cranes are not maintained properly nor inspected regularly to ensure safe operation. Crane operators often do not have the necessary qualifications to operate each piece of equipment safely, and the operator qualifications required in the existing regulations may not provide adequate guidance to employers. The issues of crane inspection/certification and crane operator qualifications and certification need to be further examined.

Current Status

OSHA's crane standards for construction, general industry and maritime have not been updated since 1971 and rely heavily on outdated 1968 American National Standards Institute (ANSI) consensus standards. The current OSHA standards do not address many of the advancements in hoisting technology or equipment used in construction today, such as the climbing tower cranes which failed in San Francisco.

In 1992 OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and request for comments on crane safety in general industry and construction. The primary areas of concern for which OSHA requested information included: criteria for operator qualifications; the need to update the standard; the need to update and clarify the use, inspection and maintenance of cranes; and the need for certification or qualifications of riggers and signal persons. (3)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently completed the revision of a previous NIOSH Alert on crane-related electrocutions based on a review of recent data from the National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) surveillance system and recommendations from the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program. This Alert, entitled "Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members Working Near Overhead Power Lines," was published in May 1995. (4)

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) recommended that crane safety be given a high priority (11/30/94).

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), through consensus procedures, continually update standards for crane manufacturing, operational procedures, inspection requirements, and operator qualifications (B30 series; 1986-1994). (5) Many construction employers adopt these standards in order to maintain their equipment and reduce losses, both in human terms and property damage. In addition, the Specialized Carriers and Riggers Association (SC&RA), which represents most of the construction crane owners and users, have developed a set of requirements for crane operator qualifications and certification.

Rationale

Crane and Hoist Safety meets several of the criteria for designation as an OSHA priority. The very serious nature of the hazard, the magnitude of the risk (high rate of fatalities and serious injuries relative to the number of workers exposed), the potential for catastrophic accidents, and the considerable knowledge about effective protective measures clearly demonstrate the need for action to address crane and hoist safety.

References
  1. OSHA (September 1990). Draft Report by OSHA's Crane Safety Task Group.
  2. BLS (1995). Bureau of Labor Statistics 1993 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
  3. 57 FR 47746, October 19, 1992. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Crane Safety for General Industry and Construction, Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
  4. NIOSH (1995). NIOSH Alert "Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members Working Near Overhead Power Lines." May 1995 (NIOSH Publication No. 95-108).
  5. ANSI (1994). American National Standards Institute B30 Series Standards.

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.