July 5, 2018
United States Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov
Re: Proposed Rule – Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Operator Qualifications – Doc. No. OSHA-2007-0066
83 Fed. Reg. 23534 (May 21, 2018)
Comment Period Extension: 83 Fed. Reg. 28562 (June 20, 2018)
Dear Sir or Madam:
On behalf of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), please accept the following comments in response to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) request for public comment on the proposed Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Operator Qualifications rule (“Crane Rule” or “Rule”). NCFC’s comments include feedback on OSHA’s approach to the proposed rule establishing qualification standards for cranes, released on May 21, 2018 (Docket ID No. OSHA-2007-0066).
American agriculture is a modern-day success story. America’s farmers produce the world’s safest, most abundant food supply for consumers at prices far lower than the global average. Farmer cooperatives – businesses owned, governed and controlled by farmers and ranchers – are an important part of the success of America’s agricultural supply chain. Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer-owned cooperatives. NCFC members include regional and national co-ops, which in turn comprise over 2,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country.
NCFC values farmer ownership and control in the production and distribution chain; the economic viability of farmers and the businesses they own; stewardship of natural resources; and vibrant rural communities. We have an extremely diverse membership, which we view as one of our sources of strength – our members span the country, supply nearly every agricultural input imaginable, provide credit and related financial services, and market a wide range of commodities and value-added products. A core component of business for over 35 NCFC cooperatives is providing propane services to their members.
NCFC supports robust industry standards to promote agricultural safety and health, and we appreciate OSHA’s efforts to update its 2010 Crane Rule. However, OSHA’s inclusion of equipment used by propane field technicians under the Rule is unreasonable, duplicative, and costly to co-ops who sell and deliver propane. This regulation makes it more difficult and expensive for cooperatives to employ propane technicians and provide these services to its customers.
Propane is an integral part of the agricultural energy portfolio. It is the world’s third most common fuel, and it is used in residential properties, industrial vehicles, and frequently in the agricultural industry where it powers engines, heats buildings, and is used to dry and process crops. Propane sales, services, and delivery are a critical part of many farmer cooperative business structures.
Regarding the Crane Rule, OSHA categorizes telescoping or knuckle-boom truck-mounted cranes used to maneuver propane tanks as covered entities. Therefore, the Rule impacts farmer-owned cooperatives that deliver and connect propane gas tanks as a service to its customers.
OSHA indicates that delivery of a propane tank to a construction site triggers the certification requirement, even if the delivery is not related to the construction activity. Also, OSHA classifies many of the activities associated with transporting and installing propane tanks as construction activities, and therefore trigger application of the Rule’s certification requirement.
According to OSHA, when a propane technician connects a propane tank to the piping system, that activity is considered a construction activity, triggering the certification requirement. Further, using a truck-mounted crane to position a propane tank in any way, other than to the ground, also constitutes a construction activity that requires the certification. Likewise, if the technician places the tank onto any sort of structure or surface where it will be connected or installed, the use of the crane is subject to regulation.
NCFC and the propane industry are primarily concerned with the inconsistent regulation of the same activity. The Rule is designed to regulate the crane usage itself, and therefore should not be dependent upon the location of the crane, how the tank is set down onto the ground or another surface, or if it will be subsequently installed in the future. The Rule seemingly sets two standards for the same activity using the same machinery, based upon arbitrary factors. This inconsistency and lack of clarity contribute to the high level of confusion among the industry, demonstrating the necessity of an extension of the compliance date and further investigation by OSHA to review the rationality and cost of applying this rule to propane field technicians.
The high costs associated with implementation of the Rule will be damaging to farmer co-ops. Third-party certification costs for the training course, certification, wages, and incidentals are approximately $3,790 per individual certification requiring renewal every five years. For a cooperative with 30 propane technicians, this would be a cost of nearly $114,000 every five years which would have a huge, detrimental impact on the small business.
Furthermore, the propane industry estimates there are about 40,000 propane field technicians who would need certification under this regulation, costing the industry approximately $151 million every five years to comply with this rule.
Application of the Crane Rule is unclear, and OSHA’s current interpretation would be damaging to co-ops that supply propane across the country. OSHA already requires employees to be trained on equipment used for maneuvering propane tanks and co-ops are currently complying with these existing rules. Adding more training for cranes in the size range for moving propane tanks is duplicative with training programs already required by industry. Further, the operation of telescoping and knuckle-boom truck-mounted cranes is vastly different from tower cranes and other large-scale cranes used in construction, which the Rule is intended to regulate. Therefore, NCFC believes propane retailers are incorrectly included in this rule and should be removed from its scope.
Affordable and reliable energy is a necessary component of functioning businesses, agriculture, and family households. The significant costs of this certification process will bear down on distributers of propane, including farmer cooperatives, which already have a struggling farm economy impacting their bottom line. Additionally, families and farmers that rely on propane will be impacted by this added cost incurred in the supply chain. The farmers feeding, clothing, and fueling our country are managing rising input costs and stagnant or declining commodity markets, and an increased propane bill is an avoidable concern.
NCFC encourages OSHA to correct the scope of its Crane Rule and appropriately remove propane field technicians from covered entities subject to the Rule. OSHA should delay the compliance deadline while the agency reviews the potential impact of the regulation on the propane industry and reassesses the scope of the Rule.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our feedback.
Charles F. Conner
President & CEO