Danger - Dual Equipment

This below opinion was provided by Elliott Equipment; a write-up on the rise and fall of “Dual-Rated” ideology and why you should think twice before making such a purchase, as there are safety and operational risks which should be considered and assessed. Before purchasing dual-rated equipment, please contact your Custom Truck One Source representative so that we can discuss what equipment best meets your safety and operational requirements.


The purpose of this letter is to inform you about certain safety concerns raised by a “dual-rated” crane/aerial lift and the feasibility of operating such equipment in a manner that is both safe and legal. 


In the past couple of years, several companies in the crane and aerial lift manufacturing industry have started marketing some of their cranes as “dual-rated” or “dual purpose.”  Typically, these companies will advertise that they have designed a crane that is compliant with both the design standards for cranes (ASME B30.5) and for aerial lifts (ANSI A92.2). 


What makes a “dual-rated” crane attractive to some operators is that they appear to provide a “loop-hole” by which an operator can by-pass the mandatory requirement of performing a test lift before a crane is used to lift people.  Under OSHA’s regulations (29 C.F.R. § 1926.1431(h)), a crane operator is required to conduct a trial lift before lifting personnel with a boom truck crane.  However, the regulations requiring a test lift are inapplicable to “machinery originally designed as vehicle-mounted aerial devices (for lifting personnel).”  29 C.F.R. § 1926.1401(c)(5).  Therefore, some companies in the industry have taken the position that because their cranes are in compliance with the standards for aerial devices (ANSI A92.2) their machines are aerial lifts and not subject to the OSHA-mandated test lift for cranes. 


But this interpretation of the standards and OSHA regulations is misguided and compromises safety.


First, the text of the OSHA regulations states a test lift is required of “dual-rated” cranes because these machines were “originally designed” to be cranes and were not originally designed as vehicle-mounted aerial devices.  So, even assuming for argument’s sake a “dual-rated” crane meets the requirements of both the crane standards (ASME B30.5) and aerial lifts (ANSI A92.2), a test lift is still required under the OSHA regulations because these machines were not originally designed to be vehicle-mounted aerial devices.  An operator who does not perform a test lift on a “dual-rated” crane prior to lifting personnel, is in violation of the OSHA regulations, compromises safety, and exposes itself potentially to OSHA’s oversight and discipline.  It has been Elliott Equipment Company’s experience that collaborating and complying with OSHA on workplace procedures for safety reduces accidents and helps keep workers safe.


Second, it is misleading to say that a single unit is compliant with both the crane standards and the aerial lift standards because these two standards are not identical.  As shown by the chart below, there are several meaningful ways in which the crane standard and aerial lift standards differ:


ANSI A92.2 (Aerial Lift) ASME B30.5(Crane)
Level Ground Stability 1.5:1 1.18:1
5 Degree Slope Stability 1.33:1 N/A
Structural Load 2:1 1.6:1
Trial Lift Required No Yes
Proof Test Required No Yes

Third, there are several authorities in the industry who support the contention that a “dual-rated” crane cannot be feasibly designed.  I have attached two opinion letters: one authored by ASME committee member Bradley Closson, and one authored by ANSI committee member David Merrifield.  Mr. Closson’s opinion letter recognizes the design standards for cranes and aerial lifts both exclude their application to different types of equipment.  Therefore, from a standards perspective it is not possible to have a single piece of equipment that is subject to both sets of standards.  Mr. Merrifield, who also recognized the standards do not allow for a “dual-rated” machine, opined that any such machine would need to meet the requirements of both sets of standards, and where the standards conflicted the more restrictive of the two standard must govern.  In other words, if the crane standards require a test lift, and the aerial device standards do not, then operators of a “dual-rated” machine need to perform a test lift. 


Additionally, in 2010, OSHA reviewed and revised its regulations applicable to cranes and issued commentary, which I have also attached.  As part of the review for 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1431, one commenter suggested to OSHA that safety precautions, like a test lift, should not be required when a crane is being used to lift personnel with an attached boom.  The commenter suggested this use “essentially transforms the crane into a large aerial lift.”  But this thinking was rejected and was called “unpersuasive.”  In response, the OSHA committee reviewing the regulations stated:

The Agency finds this comparison unpersuasive. As stated above, equipment covered by this section is primarily designed for hoisting materials, not people. [The Committee] concluded that it was important to differentiate between equipment primarily designed for moving personnel, such as an aerial lift, as compared to equipment that is primarily designed to lift materials. In the judgment of the Committee, a personnel platform attached to equipment covered by this section presented a greater hazard than a machine that is designed for moving personnel.


OSHA Response to comments regarding 29 C.F.R. Part 1926 (2010) (emphasis added). 


            The reason for OSHA’s concerns regarding blurring the lines between cranes and aerial lifts are well-founded given that cranes are not designed to do the same work as aerial lifts.  It is much easier to overload a crane, which is equipped with a winch and load line, than to overload an aerial lift.  It is easier to know the forces exerted on an aerial device, which is lifting one or two workers and their parts, than it is to know the forces exerted on a crane.  For example, the forces needed to loosen objects set in the ground with a crane are substantial and can cause overloads on the crane.  Such an overload is far less likely to occur on an aerial device that is used just to lift people and their equipment or tools. 


            Cranes are not aerial lifts.  They are designed to do different things.  Just because a crane has a mode that is purportedly compliant with the standards for aerial lifts, this does not convert the crane into an aerial lift.  Safety must be of primary importance on a job site, especially when the work involves lifting people.  When balanced against the potential fines, damages, and loss of reputation if a worker is injured while operating a “dual-rated” crane, the time-savings from not performing a test lift are nullified.  If a machine is designed as a crane, then it’s a crane and is subject to the requirements for cranes.  Advertising a crane as “dual-rated” is a semantic trick designed to circumvent the clear safety rules that apply to cranes.


            Elliott Equipment Company is committed to providing the safest equipment possible to our customers.  While Elliott could advertise its cranes as “dual-rated” cranes/aerial lifts, Elliott chooses not to do so because (1) “dual-rated” machines are prohibited by the safety standards, and (2) “dual-rated” machines may encourage operators to engage in unsafe and illegal practices. 


            To date, no independent authority (e.g., OSHA, ASNI, ASME) has recognized that a “dual-rated” crane/aerial lift is an appropriate design.  If at some point in the future an independent authority does recognize a “dual-rated” crane/aerial lift as an appropriate design, Elliott will be able to design such a machine.  But until such guidance is given, Elliott will only design machines that are consistent with the applicable standards and laws in effect.


            Elliott wishes to inform you of these issues associated with “dual-rated” cranes and requests modification of the RFB so that you seek an appropriate piece of equipment that complies with the law and that is safe for its operators.  Please feel free to contact us if you would like additional information or to discuss these matters. 


Custom Truck One Source CEO, Fred Ross, also commented on the issue:

Those machines are designed to do completely different jobs. One is a crane and one is a personnel lift. Personnel lifts are built to a higher standard of safety versus a crane. Cranes are almost always overloaded, close to the point of failure, and to act like flipping a switch changes that is physically impossible. OSHA doesn’t believe in it, I don’t believe in it and it’s the reason Custom Truck One Source went with the E-Series, which is designed strictly as a personnel lift. Safety is not the place to try to save money—and the only reason for dual-rated machines is to save money. Lives are more important than money. Period.