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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
February 17, 2010
The Honorable David Vitter
2800 Veterans Boulevard, Suite 201
Metaire, LA 70002
Dear Senator Vitter:
Thank you for your letter of December 23, 2009, concerning an inquiry you received from your constituent, Mr. Reynold J. LeBlanc, which was referred to me for a response. Mr. LeBlanc wrote to notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of a particular hazard that exists with Galion/Dresser cranes and to learn from OSHA how an employer may abate this hazard. OSHA is aware of the danger in holding the hoist lever in the UP position (using the hydraulic system) to prevent a permissible load from slipping, on Galion/Dresser cranes. This practice exposes employees to the hazard of dropping the load in the event that the crane's engine shuts down or the hydraulic system malfunctions.
OSHA notes that using the crane's clutch mechanism to compensate for older brakes on Galion/Dresser cranes violates the Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators, and Conveyors standard, 29 CFR §1926.550(b)(2), which incorporates ANSI B30.5-1968, Crawler, Locomotive and Truck Cranes, §5-1.3.2(b) by reference. Furthermore, the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard, §1926.1433(b)(5), incorporates Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, ANSI B30.5-2004, §5-1.3.2(b), which is substantially similar to the 1968 version.1 [Refer to §1926.1400 for the scope of the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.]
There are several means an employer may use to help prevent employees from being exposed to the hazard of using the hydraulic system to compensate for inadequate brakes on older Galion/Dresser cranes. First, have a qualified person calculate and confirm a reduced capacity of the equipment through proper load testing. OSHA also notes that any such limitations and modified load ratings must be conspicuously posted on all equipment in accordance with the Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators, and Conveyors standard, §1926.550(a)(2). Second, we are aware that the manufacturer recommends limiting the duration of hoisting operations so that the hoist brakes can cool and be properly adjusted periodically to ensure that the equipment can consistently be operated safely. To date, we are not aware of any information that indicates these recommended procedures are hazardous when performed under the supervision of a qualified person.
Mr. LeBlanc has provided OSHA with information regarding the add-on brake he has designed and manufactured; however, the agency does not approve or endorse products. OSHA notes, however, that the use of an add-on brake constitutes a modification of the crane. The Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators, and Conveyors standard, §1926.550(a)(16), requires employers to obtain written approval from the crane manufacturer for all crane modifications; however, this provision does not explicitly address how to modify a crane where the crane manufacturer is no longer in business. In such a scenario, it is acceptable for the employer to modify a crane, by using an add-on brake, only after the employer obtains written approval of this modification from a registered professional engineer, qualified in assessing the safety of modifications to a Galion/Dresser crane.
Notably, the proposed Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard, §1926.1434(a)(3), provides a similar requirement where the crane manufacturer is unavailable to approve the modification. Under the proposed Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard, §1926.1434(a)(3), an employer shall obtain prior approval by a registered professional engineer, who is a qualified person with respect to the particular crane, before using an assist brake.2
OSHA is not in a position to answer Mr. Leblanc's second question about what the manufacturer says about add-on brakes. Mr. LeBlanc must ask a registered professional engineer who is qualified to assess the safety mechanisms on a Galion/Dresser crane because the manufacturer is no longer in business.
With respect to Mr. Leblanc's separate email question regarding how an employer should act where the permissible line pull and the maximum line pull are different, OSHA's Directorate of Construction will respond to this purely interpretive question at a later date via a letter of interpretation.
Hopefully this information addresses you and your constituent's concerns. If we can be of further assistance, please contact Janna Bergquist in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at (202) 693-4649.
David Michaels, PhD, MPH