Understand The Administration Of Law And Standards Of Safety As Related To Overhead Crane Operation

As a supervisor or owner of a business using overhead cranes, it is incumbent upon you to understand the provisions of the law concerning safety. Not only is protecting the employees in your care a matter of moral obligation, it is also a legal obligation as the person responsible for business activities involving overhead cranes. Below is an introduction to the governing organizations that produce and enforce safety standards as well as how safety standards are to be generally interpreted in your place of work:

OSHA, ASME and ANSI and their roles in enforcing safety standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) all contribute to the large framework of safety regulations that govern overhead crane use by businesses like Winslow Crane Service Co. Only OSHA is a government body, and it alone has the power to create and enforce policies using the authority of the United States Government. That means OSHA may issue fines and other punitive or corrective measures for lack of compliance on the part of companies that violate crane safety regulations.

On the other hand, ASME and ANSI are industry organizations that represent a consortium of experts and other individuals who are professionals within the field.  Both ASME and ANSI have created standards that relate to the use, inspection and maintenance of overhead cranes. The key difference between these two industry organizations and OSHA is that ASME and ANSI standards carry no official enforcement weight. Neither ASME nor ANSI may issue fines or other sanctions; instead, their collective efforts represent best practices as concerning overhead cranes. However, it is important to note that ASME and ANSI standards have substantial respect in the legal environment, and courts will not hesitate to judge cases using these standards as a basis for decisions.

Your response to the administration of safety when working with overhead cranes

From a practical standpoint, supervisors and owners should take into account the above information by addressing the following issues:

  • Be aware that multiple organizations are involved in the oversight of crane equipment and operations within a single dimension - In some circumstances, OSHA and ASME, and occasionally ANSI, may have produced regulations or standards that overlap one another. In fact, it is normal to find multiple codes that relate to the various individual components found in a single overhead crane, such as the crane's hook, slings and electrical festooning.

As a general rule, it is wise to adhere to the standard that is the most stringent to protect your workers and business organization. However, consult with an attorney or compliance specialist if you have questions about how to handle specific concerns regarding regulatory layers, especially if you discover possible conflicts between codes.

  • Understand the terms as defined by OSHA, ASME and ANSI - Each organization uses specific terms that are defined in such a manner to express a clear, well-delineated idea. One such example in the area of crane operations is understanding the differences among "designated", "qualified" and "competent". Each of these terms reflects a particular level of expertise and/or standing, and while they may seem somewhat synonymous, it is a mistake for management and principals to misunderstand their usage. Gaining a better understanding of terminology involves careful reading of the stated standards and regulations, and it may also mean involving extra training or consulting with experts who can properly define them for you.

  • Know you have a "General Duty" to care for your workers - Even if a particular crane-related activity or object is not specifically addressed in the OSHA, ASME and ANSI documentation, employers still are responsible for providing a high level of care for workers. The General Duty Clause within the Occupational Safety and Health Act states "each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees." As an example, OSHA does not specifically address all overhead crane types in its safety regulations. However, the General Duty Clause is sufficient to govern your activities as related to keeping workers safe, even when specific clauses may not apply.