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Originally published April 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 8, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Crane safety on the books

Tough, appropriate legislation to regulate construction-crane safety in Washington is headed for Gov. Christine Gregoire's...

Tough, appropriate legislation to regulate construction-crane safety in Washington is headed for Gov. Christine Gregoire's signature. A tragic death last November in Bellevue got the state off the sidelines.

Touted as the strictest requirements in the nation, the title may be ephemeral. More than a dozen states, a half-dozen cities and the federal government are working on regulations to reduce hazards for crane operators and the general public. Washington's law has all the right elements: certification, inspections and training.

A crane operator will have to hold a valid operator certificate for the equipment being used, issued by a nationally recognized accrediting agency and recognized by the state Department of Labor and Industries. Certified inspectors must load-test cranes annually, and tower cranes must be inspected prior to assembly and after they are erected on a new job site. Trainees will need up to 2,000 hours of documented experience supervised by certified operators.

The new rules go into effect in 2010, to give Labor and Industries time organize itself and give industry lead time in training and certifying operators and inspectors. Concerns about the deadlines on smaller employers inspired Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, to offer a two-year delay, but it was defeated. He had no qualms about the intent of the bill.

In the aftermath of last fall's fatal crane collapse, as public testimony in Olympia noted, other work sites were inspected and other serious crane problems were found. Public confidence was a second casualty.

For years, the construction industry relied on self-regulation and a veneer of regulatory oversight. A history of accidents finally trumped those good-faith efforts. The Legislature, with commendable speed, answered a public outcry for more predictability and protection.

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