Osha Crane, Forklift Initiatives

Following highly publicized crane incidents that occurred primarily in New York, new construction regulations have been widely anticipated. Now, the Occupational


Following highly publicized crane incidents that occurred primarily in New York, new construction regulations have been widely anticipated. Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appears to be using the publicity as justification for its proposal to tighten all construction crane rules Û not just tower-crane requirements targeting the cranes involved in incidents photographed most prominently.

In mid-September, OSHA announced that a proposed rule for construction cranes and derricks would soon be published in the Federal Register. The current proposed standard Û affecting installation of concrete elements, not production facilities Û would apply to an estimated 96,000 construction cranes in the U.S., including 2,000 tower models.

Issues addressed include ground conditions for crane placement, crane assembly and disassembly, and crane operation near power lines; certification and training of crane operators; use of safety devices and signals; and, crane inspections. The proposed standard would establish four options for qualification or certification of crane operators: (1) certification through an accredited third-party testing organization, (2) qualification through an audited employer testing program, (3) qualification issued by the U.S. military, and (4) qualification by a state or local licensing authority. Accordingly, existing tower-crane requirements would be updated to more comprehensively address tower crane safety, encompassing erection and dismantling procedures, plus crane operations.

An 1,100-page copy of the proposed standard is available on the OSHA web site at www.osha.gov/doc/proposedrule/Cranes_Derricks_Proposed_Rule.html. A public comment period on the proposed rule will begin only after the proposal has been formally published in the Federal Register.

Coinciding with the proposed rule, OSHA implemented a National Crane Safety Initiative to address safety hazards during construction crane operations. According to Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr.:

Three important features of this initiative are that it will provide information and outreach to the construction industry and other stakeholders, offer enhanced resources to OSHA inspectors who address crane safety, and implement a National Emphasis Program on Crane Safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported the 2007 fatality rate was the lowest in recorded history, including a reported five percent reduction in fatalities for the construction industry. This initiative builds upon this successful record.

Thus, in collaboration with construction industry partners, OSHA plans to increase awareness and avoidance of crane hazards. The agency’s safety and health compliance officers will receive enhanced crane safety resources. Additionally, the National Emphasis Program will incorporate increased targeted inspections of construction job sites to identify crane hazards and promote compliance with workplace crane safety requirements.


For the benefit of concrete producing facilities, a new OSHA website Û titled Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklifts) e-tools Û focuses on forklifts commonly used in general industry, providing a review of potential hazards as well as a summary of key OSHA requirements and industry-recommended practices for forklift operation. The e-tool includes four modules examining types of forklifts, safe operating practices, workplace conditions affecting operation, and operator training. It is available at http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/products/etools/pit/index.html.


U.S. producers that use forklifts are required to develop, maintain, and update a forklift program. OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.178 requires employers to develop and implement a training program based on general principles of safe forklift operation, types of vehicle(s) used in the workplace, workplace hazards created by use of the vehicle(s), and general safety requirements of the OSHA standard. Although the regulation does not specifically mandate a written program, offering proof of the program’s existence to the OSHA inspector entails creation of a document.

Required components of a forklift program include formal training via lecture and/or video, as well as practical sessions involving demos and hands-on exercises. Further, operators must demonstrate the effectiveness of safety training during workplace evaluations. Additionally, employers must certify that each operator has received training and evaluate each individual’s performance at least once every three years. Prior to using a forklift in the workplace, the employer must assess an operator’s performance to determine competence in safely operating the machine. Refresher training is needed whenever an operator exhibits a deficiency in safe operation of the forklift.

Training program content must incorporate the following topics, excluding those which the employer can demonstrate do not apply to the particular workplace:

  • Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate
  • Differences between the truck and automobiles
  • Truck controls and instrumentation, i.e., where they are located, what they do, and how they work
  • Engine or motor operation
  • Steering and maneuvering
  • Visibility (including restrictions due to loading)
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations
  • Vehicle capacity and stability
  • Vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform
  • Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries
  • Operating limitations

Additional workplace-related topics include:

  • Surface conditions where vehicle will be operated
  • Composition of loads and load stability
  • Load manipulation for stacking and unstacking
  • Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated
  • Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated
  • Hazardous locations and conditions where the vehicle will be operated
  • Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle’s stability
  • Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust
  • Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation

As employers must certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated in accordance with the OSHA standard, both a written test and field-exam checklist are recommended to provide proof of the fulfillment of training requirements. Following successful completion of the training program, the employer must provide a certification document, usually an operator’s card, which typically specifies the type of equipment the operator is authorized to operate and must include the individual’s name, training date, evaluation date, and name of the person(s) performing the training or evaluation.

Whenever any of the following conditions are present, refresher training is mandated, including an evaluation of the effectiveness of that training.

  • Operator has been observed to handle the forklift in an unsafe manner
  • Operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident
  • Operator has received an evaluation indicating unsafe operation of the forklift
  • Operator is assigned to drive a different type of forklift
  • Change in workplace conditions could affect safe operation of the forklift

Producers are encouraged to document an annual review of their regulatory compliance policies to assure they meet standards requirements.


Almost all employers encounter alleged parking lot injuries sustained by employees. The question necessarily arises whether the injuries are OSHA recordable, since the employee is arguably still in transit to work. In northern climates, typical injuries involve slipping and falling on ice during winter months or twisting an ankle on a rock and falling in the parking lot. Such falls can account for severe and costly knee and back injuries.

Under the terms and definitions of rule 29 CFR 1904, OSHA now attests these incidents are recordable on the OSHA 300 log, if they otherwise meet the criteria of workplace injury or illness recordability. According to a letter of interpretation, dated Sept. 3, posted on OSHA’s website:

OSHA has made it clear that injuries and illnesses that occur during an employee’s normal commute to and from work are not considered work-related, and, therefore not recordable. However, for purposes of part 1904, the employee’s commute from home to work ends once he or she arrives at the work environment.

Whether such an interpretation implicates parking lots located on company property is likely to be contested. Employers with employment-relationship issues have long preferred that workers park outside fenced, company-owned property to clearly demarcate work versus nonwork territory. That separation helps to avoid problems associated with employee-perceived safe havens (for various types of contraband) in personal cars, parking lot auto accidents, incidental damage to employees’ cars by yard and delivery vehicles, tool theft, and enforcement of rules prohibiting departure from company property during work hours. Such factors may impel companies to contest the OSHA interpretation of parking lot injuries.