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.

July 14, 2016

Sam J. Flocks
Mid-American Monument Builders Association
P.O. Box 8062
Fort Smith, AR 72902

Dear Mr. Flocks:

Thank you for your October 6, 2014, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in which you ask for an interpretation of the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard. Your company delivers granite and marble monuments to gravesites. Most of these monuments are headstones and markers that consist of one piece. You also clarified that you are only requesting guidance with respect to headstones and other small monuments weighing between 100 and 1,700 pounds (not larger monuments such as mausoleums or columbaria). You note, however, that even some of these small monuments can consist of several pieces. These pieces are then placed separately on top of each other, arranged in their final formation, and the joints between them are then sealed with a water resistant compound. The monuments that you describe are typically placed on a precast concrete or granite foundation pad, or poured concrete foundation, that has been installed in the ground often days prior to the delivery of the monuments. A crane is used to move the monuments or their pieces from the bed of a delivery truck to either the foundation directly or to a heavy duty cart that will be manually pushed/pulled to the designated grave site.

You describe several related worksite scenarios and ask OSHA to determine if they are considered construction activities. Please note that consideration of whether a work activity is covered by 29 CFR 1910 (OSHA’s General Industry Standards) or 29 CFR 1926 (OSHA’s Construction standards) is based on a case-specific factual analysis. An example of some of the factors used to determine whether a work activity is covered under OSHA’s Construction standards is discussed in a letter of interpretation that can be accessed from OSHA’s website at: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=24789. We have paraphrased your questions as follows.

Question #1: When a crane is used to move headstones and other small monuments from a truck bed to particular foundations at designated grave sites, is that a construction activity?

Answer: Generally, no. Pouring or installing the concrete foundation pad at the grave site creates a new structure and would typically be considered construction work, which is defined in 29 CFR §§ 1910.12(b) and 1926.32(g) as “work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating. Simply moving a completed monument from the bed of a truck to the ground (or a completed foundation pad) would generally not be considered construction if it is done so without facilitating any alteration or improvement to the pad or monument following its placement on the pad. Such work would not be considered construction because the monument would not need to be connected to another newly-constructed or then-modified structure or system.1 In contrast, construction work would typically include hoisting and positioning of: a completed monument onto or within formwork on the ground as the foundation is being constructed; a completed monument to where it would otherwise be joined or connected to another structure (including physically securing it to a precast foundation or securing its footings); or several pieces of a monument during its assembly.

Question #2: When a crane is used to move the monuments from a truck bed to heavy duty carts that will then be used to transport the monuments to the designated grave sites, is that construction?

Answer: Whether the monuments are loaded directly from the truck to the ground, or first loaded onto a transportation cart, is not determinative. OSHA’s analysis focuses on what will happen to the monument, or pieces of it, when transported to the jobsite, as noted in the answer to Question #1 above.

Question #3: Will a crane with a capacity over 2,000 lbs. be subject only to the limited requirements in 29 CFR 1926.1441 (Equipment of 2,000 lbs. lifting capacity or less),instead of the entire crane standard, if the crane’s lifting/hoisting capacity (lifting capacity) is de-rated to less than 2,000 lbs.?

Answer: No. OSHA considers it a safety issue when employers opt to de-rate cranes simply to avail themselves of the reduced requirements of 29 CFR 1926.1441 (Equipment of 2,000 lbs. lifting capacity or less) instead of complying with the entire crane standard. In the preamble to the proposed rule, OSHA echoed construction industry representatives’ rationale for recommending that OSHA limit its reduced set of requirements to low-capacity cranes. The representatives stated:

Equipment in this category [less than 2,000 lbs. lifting capacity] is inherently less hazardous than higher-capacity equipment for several reasons. First, the reduced mass of these loads makes them easier to manipulate. Second, the working radius of such equipment is very limited, which reduces the zone of danger involved. Third, the equipment itself is less complex to operate, which places fewer demands on the operator's ability to maneuver the equipment and the load safely.2

In the preamble to the final rule, OSHA described New York City’s concerns about relatively small cranes with lifting capacity equal to or greater than 2,000 lbs., such as some knuckle-boom truck cranes. New York explained that these smaller cranes now can lift heavier loads and extend their booms further than older cranes, allowing materials-delivery personnel at construction sites to position and hold materials for contractors during installation and erection activities. Based on the city’s experiences, when employers perform these activities with cranes of greater lifting capacities, they tend to plan for those construction operations. In contrast, lift planning is not necessarily done when delivery personnel are asked by contractors to handle materials under often varying conditions at construction sites. Therefore, OSHA has maintained that all employers who use these smaller cranes to handle loads at construction sites must still comply with the crane standard if their lifting capacity is 2,000 lbs. or greater.3 Per this discussion, it was concluded that physically smaller cranes of over 2,000 lbs. rated lifting capacity present the same hazards as bigger cranes. Similarly, the crane standard does not presume that de-rating a crane eliminates hazards that are addressed by requirements for equipment of over 2,000 lbs. rated lifting capacity. When larger capacity cranes are de-rated to less than 2,000 lbs. lifting capacity and used only to lift small loads, OSHA also does not have any evidence to support that the risk to the operator and workers near these cranes would be reduced. Therefore, exempting a de-rated crane from the full requirements of the crane standard would not be consistent with its intent.

Question #4: Section 1926.1441 of the crane standard applies to cranes with less than 2,000 lbs. of lifting capacity. Under that section, employers are not required to comply with the more stringent requirements that are specified for cranes of greater lifting capacities. For example, operators of cranes of smaller lifting capacities do not have to be certified. The lifting capacity of my crane is greater than 2,000 pounds. However, at the boom lengths and angles used for our work, the crane’s lifting capacity is much less than 2,000 pounds based on its load charts. May I reclassify the crane as having a capacity of 2,000 pounds or less, such that it would be subject to §1926.1441 instead of to the full spectrum of crane requirements, by implementing engineering or administrative controls, in lieu of de-rating the crane, to ensure that the crane can be used in only those specified configurations that would keep its capacity below 2,000 pounds?

Answer: No. OSHA does not prohibit employers from implementing such controls when they determine that such protective methods are appropriate and effective at their worksites. However, when determining which OSHA requirements are applicable to a particular crane, the maximum rated lifting capacity of the crane is not determined based only on the configuration of the crane the employer intends to use for the job. For the purposes of the crane standard, the crane’s capacity is the maximum rated lifting capacity possible for that crane.

In addition, as you may be aware, OSHA published a final rule to extend the effective dates for crane operator competency (employer duty) and operator certification requirements of the crane standard.4 This action maintains current operator competency requirements and will give OSHA time to analyze and resolve any issues that were not previously identified, discussed, and considered during rulemaking.

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 youare using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey A. Erskine, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction


1 See OSHA’s February 26, 2013, letter to the National Concrete Burial Vault Association.

2 See 73 FR 59869.

3 See discussion at 75 FR 48075.

4 Unless required and issued by a government entity, employers are not required to provide certifications for crane operators until November 10, 2017. See 79 FR 57583-57584.