US rental company Sims Crane & Equipment is appealing a decision by an administrative law judge with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Review Commission that redefines a spreader bar as part of a load.
The case began in April 2015 when an MSHA inspector issued a citation to a Sims Crane crew at S.D.I. Quarry in Florida City, for rigging personnel not staying clear of a suspended load. The ‘load’ in question was a spreader bar that was not yet attached to the load.
Sims disputed the citation based on OSHA standards that identify the spreader bar as rigging, not a part of the load. Sims also disputed the citation because OSHA allows a qualified rigger to remain in the fall zone during a lift, therefore, even if the spreader bar is defined as part of the load, the qualified rigger is still allowed to be in the area under OSHA rules.
In spite of this the MSHA administrative law judge has concluded that the spreader bar constitutes a load, using the dictionary definition of ‘load’ due to the fact that MSHA’s own regulations do not define the term ‘load.’ The judge also stated that OSHA standards are not legally binding on the MSHA.
Sims Crane safety director Bob Berry, a 40 year veteran of the crane industry said: “As a result of this legal decision, there will be no way to lift the spreader bar and attach it to the load without being in violation and incurring serious penalties. OSHA and MSHA have had an interagency agreement since 1979 that says they will work together on mine safety but this legal decision refuses to recognise federal regulations set forth by OSHA that make it clear that the spreader bar is considered rigging”.
Vice president of marketing Dean Sims added: “We hope that other crane companies and clients will sign onto the appeal brief. This decision impacts mining crane operations and crane companies nationwide, not just here in Florida and certainly not just Sims Crane. We believe that other crane industry leaders will support our appeal once they know that a procedure that is standard in the industry has now been redefined as a violation.”
This is a sign of too much government and too many agencies trying to justify their existence. This very mentality has allowed numerous terrorist actions to succeed in the past because separate agencies or forces did not work together and even avoided sharing information, in order to protect their status. It is wrong and should be fought at every opportunity.
Whether you agree or disagree with a spreader bar being a load or not, the fact is that there is no place for individual organisations to make up their own rules and contradict each other. They should all be working towards a common aim and co-operating. This incident should have been sorted as soon as it made it back to the MSHA office, and not dragged on for a year with a judge becoming involved.
This is a case where the industry should rally together and stand up for common sense. Perhaps the SC&RA should also be taking a very strong and public stance on this?