Printing firms have taken safety seriously for decades, of course. The Specialty Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA) has a formal safety recognition program, for example. Myriad offset plants that I’ve toured proudly hang banners in pressrooms and binderies proclaiming safety milestones. Two million working hours without a lost-time accident can translate to a streak of several years, depending on the number of employees and shifts. Those are Brett Favre-like, ironman numbers for injury-free factories.
Under the new OSHA Cranes and Derricks rule, employers must determine whether the ground is sufficient to support the anticipated weight of hoisting equipment and associated loads. The employer is then required to assess hazards within the work zone that would affect the safe operation of hoisting equipment, such as those of power lines and objects or personnel that would be within the work zone or swing radius of the hoisting equipment. The employer also is required to ensure that the equipment is in safe operating condition via required inspections.
In addition, employees in the work zone require training to recognize hazards. The new OSHA rule demands that every crane operator be certified by November 10, 2014. Employers must pay for certification or qualification of their currently uncertified or unqualified operators, OSHA stated.
“If you are a sign company using a mobile crane, your individual operators need to have [official] certification by then,” said Matt Rumbaugh, director of education at the International Sign Association (ISA), which already has trained more than 200 crane operators and uses NCCCO, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, to do so. NCCCO has compiled numerous resources to assist employers, operators, riggers, signalpersons, and others in better understanding the personnel qualification requirements under new federal OSHA rule. (Go to www.nccco.org for more information.)
The new standard also addresses key hazards related to cranes and derricks on worksites, including the four main causes of worker death and injury: 1) the aforementioned electrocution, 2) crushed by parts of the equipment, 3) struck-by the equipment/load, and 4) falls.
More than Training
The November 2014 operator certification deadline looms large, but most sign companies are not budgeting until next year for the training, which can cost up to $1,000 per operator (not including lost time on the job and travel expenses). “It’s a five-year certification, so I can see why people might want to wait until next year,” pointed out ISA’s Rumbaugh, adding that the association is gearing up to add more convenient, online training later this year.
Darrel Wilkerson, Jr., VP of operations for Wilkie Mfg., noted that while the training requirement doesn’t kick in for 21 months, new regs regarding job sites and equipment inspections have been in effect since November 2010. “Power line clearance is one of the biggest changes,” said Wilkerson, whose Oklahoma City-based firm sells new and used trucks. “Ten feet used to be the rule of thumb, but now it’s 20 feet. If you’re within 10 to 20 feet of a power line, there is a whole bunch of things you need to do, like have spotters and elevated flags and do pre-planning. It’s a real process [now].”
The new rules for daily, monthly, and annual equipment inspections are much more stringent, too, explained Wilkerson, who serves on the ISA Crane Taskforce. “There even are regulations for cranes under 2,000 pounds,” he said. “In the past, there were maybe five to seven pages [of documentation] dedicated to crane safety; now there are 200.” Wilkerson himself has already led a half-dozen seminars or so in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, helping folks to understand all the changes.
Even though there is no “grandfathering in,” OSHA has been lenient for the past two years. “But that is going to change,” warned Wilkerson, who said he has heard firsthand from several inspectors. “Most have just been slapping wrists so far, but I’ve heard of a few citations being written and people being shut down. The fines are coming. They’re making cranes a priority as 2014 draws closer.”
Why are OSHA inspectors soon to be riding herd on cranes? It’s all about saving lives and reducing injuries. The final standard is expected to prevent 22 fatalities and 175 non-fatal injuries each year, the government agency estimated.