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.

September 13, 2013

Mr. Paul A. Swetland
728 Washington Street
Woodstock, Illinois 60098

Dear Mr. Swetland:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). You inquired about OSHA's requirements pursuant to 29 CFR Part 1910 - General Industry and 29 CFR Part 1918 Longshoring.

Your paraphrased scenario, as confirmed by our telephone conversation of May 2, 2013, paraphrased question, and our reply follow.

Scenario: An overhead crane is used to handle and manipulate suspended loads. The overhead crane is controlled by an operator (employee). The operator may experience the onset of a loss of control of his or her hand, momentary or otherwise, because of a diagnosed medical condition that prevents completion of the lift or returning the suspended load to the load receiver (floor, pallet, platform, shelf, etc.). During our May 2, 2013, telephone conversation, you stated that when such an onset occurred, you, the operator, would have to walk away from or abandon the suspended load to find another operator to complete the lift.

Note: Please note that although you addressed only the standards under 29 CFR Part 1910 - General Industry and 29 CFR Part 1918 - Longshoring, our response is intended to consider crane operators in all sectors of industry including 29 CFR Part 1915 - Shipyard Employment, 29 CFR Part 1917 - Marine Terminals, and 29 CFR Part 1926 - Construction.

Question: Can a crane operator, who for any reason becomes incapacitated and is not capable of completing the load handling operation, leave his or her position at the controls while the load is suspended - for example, to find another operator to finish the task?

Reply: No. OSHA standards require that employers must ensure the individual assigned to operate a piece of equipment, such as but not limited to a crane, must be physically able to perform the assigned task without unscheduled interruption that could affect the safety of workers. Furthermore, if' an operator leaves his or her position at the controls or is otherwise unable to complete his or her tasks as an operator while the load is suspended or otherwise in use, the employer is not ensuring employee safety and health and may be subject to a citation by OSHA.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100 or the Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.

Sincerely,

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs