By Johnathan Josephs, MSL, AEM Regulatory Affairs Manager — Overhead Crane End Trucks
In early October, River Levett Bucknall issued its RLB CRANE INDEX® NORTH AMERICA Q3 2022 report of fixed cranes on construction sites in 14 North American cities.
Toronto reported a 21% increase in tower cranes, putting the city above Los Angeles and New York, with a total of 230 active cranes in the sky in the third quarter of 2022. A market this size puts the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Health & Safety (MLTSD) in Ontario on a regulatory watch list, because the potential impact of regulations on manufacturers selling into the Ontario market could be large. The MLTSD enforces the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) in Ontario, Canada, by sending inspectors to visit workplaces to ensure the OHSA is being followed. The more cranes in the sky at worksites, the more inspectors needed for compliance review.
The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will also be on a regulatory watch list for 2023. Similar to MLTSD, OSHA is looking at a series of crane accidents, which could push the regulators to act sooner than later. This as the New York City Department of Building (DOB) is set to finalize new changes to the city code regulating crane operation, licensing and training requirements. In 2022, NYC DOB answered accidents with regulation, which it hopes will make worksites safer. These actions could be seen as a leading indicator for regulations OSHA and MLTSD will roll out in 2023.
2022 was an eventful year for cranes. After years of relative inaction on the regulatory front due to the global pandemic, manufacturers of mini cranes, autonomous load stabilization systems, knuckle booms, telehandlers and lifting devices in general are watching closely for impending, and in-process, OSHA, NYC DOB and MLTSD regulations. As a result, regulatory engagement has been at an all-time high, as the industry anticipates the New York City rulemaking to introduce a flurry of new requirements, spilling over into 2023.
The menu of crane regulations is appetizing, to say the least. First, New York City is rolling out its hoisting machine operator (HMO) certifications by licensing classes A B & C, covering fixed cab telescope boom mobile cranes, swing cab telescopic boom mobile cranes, lattice boom cranes, tower cranes, articulating booms, dedicated pile drivers and telehandler operation. These rules reinforce safety on the jobsite, requiring the operator to receive proper training to handle all work-related situations. According to 1 RCNY §3319-01 of the New York City Code, eligible licensees hold “a valid certification for the operation of a [crane] issued by an organization acceptable to the commissioner and accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the American National Standards institute (ANSI).” Other regulatory bodies are expected to follow New York City’s lead by more clearly defining job descriptions and necessary training for lift directors, HMOs and other professional crane operators tasked with adhering to safety standards.
Second, requirements for strain gauge testing and load charts: Manufacturers include load charts with cranes, indicating to the crane operator proper use and safety. According to OSHA 1926.1427, every crane operator must know and understand how to interpret a load chart, and the crane’s load chart must be always on the crane and consulted before each lift. However, there is nuance with prototyping articulating boom cranes because booms can be mounted on a variety of truck beds that may influence the load charts, overturning, and/or stability. Regulatory guidance can help clarify these gray areas and how they may differ by jurisdiction or manufacturer. If crane end-users are to obtain the appropriate permits for certification of operations and safety planning, they must know which load chart requirement applies to their area.
Third, why Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) matters: even for cranes. Certain regulatory bodies are evaluating their engine emission rules, many of which carry important ESG requirements. These rules may also include incentive tax credits for alternative fuel/electric power solutions. In response, manufacturers will need to evaluate their product offerings for emissions aftertreatment or alternative power solutions. Since many cranes operate in highly urban environments with access to established energy infrastructure systems, some manufacturers may choose to utilize battery electric or grid-electric powertrain technologies to reduce their emissions. However, many cities still lack the needed infrastructure to accommodate these new technology options, jeopardizing potential market adoption of zero-emission product platforms. To encourage the adoption of environmentally friendly technology, state, local and federal governments must provide the supporting infrastructure with access to the grid on worksites.
In conclusion, the crane regulatory boom is unavoidable, and we should expect more regulation in 2023 as OSHA, and the MLTSD have indicated to AEM that rulemaking will restart next year. This includes international considerations, as more international manufacturers seek to break into U.S. markets. There will be many lessons learned, new technologies adopted and standards changed. The question is: Are we ready for it?
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