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Putnam Lieb Potvin Dailey

New crane operator regulations may improve workplace safety

Recent months have seen a surge in crane accidents at construction sites, including a crane collapse in Washington State a couple months ago that killed four and injured three others. The state's Labor and Industries Department is investigating a number of people believed to be involved in the incident, including the general contractor, the crane's owner, and three crane subcontractors.

Cranes are common at construction sites, which is why it is disconcerting that most crane accidents are caused by human error attributable to a lack of training and knowledge. The industry is recognizing this lapse, and new regulations implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration attempt to rectify the situation. As per the new rules, operator training is revised, along with the way they are evaluated and certified. The burden of ensuring an operator is ready is placed on the employer. These individuals must also receive training to operate new equipment.

Unfortunately, those who received training before December of last year don't have to be reassessed. This means that whereas new operators are evaluated based on their knowledge of different types of cranes, previous operators need only be evaluated on the basis of a crane's general size and capacity.

As is the situation with most new regulations, there are added costs of compliance, which make experts fear employers may skirt the rules. However, it is every employer's legal duty to ensure his or her employees are properly trained and have the necessary knowledge to complete their jobs safely. When this does not happen and workplace injuries result, it might be possible not only to report the employer but also receive compensation through a workers' compensation claim and a third-claim.

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