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The End of the Pin-On Man Basket

Written by Jim Vaughn, CUSP on . Posted in .

I have been warning my clients to prepare for an expensive high-reach, non-insulating platform compliance issue, and that time is very near, if not already here. The issue is the use of pin-on man baskets for cranes. For quite a few years, it has been illegal to use a crane to hoist personnel with a few exceptions. The most recent OSHA prohibition is found at 29 CFR 1926.1431(a), which begins by stating, “The use of equipment to hoist employees is prohibited …”

As I mentioned, there are exceptions. Specifically, 1926.1431(a) goes on to state, “… except where the employer demonstrates that the erection, use, and dismantling of conventional means of reaching the work area, such as a personnel hoist, ladder, stairway, aerial lift, elevating work platform, or scaffold, would be more hazardous, or is not possible because of the project’s structural design or worksite conditions.”

It is that last part – “because of the project’s structural design or worksite conditions” – that has applied to the transmission power-line industry. In the past, the exception was based on both the height of many transmission structures and the space between parallel circuits in a multi-circuit transmission right-of-way. Bucket trucks could not reach the heights necessary to work the tops of transmission structures. Folding booms required space behind the extended platform, putting the knuckle of the folding boom close to the parallel energized circuits. The solution was 30- to 60-ton cranes with enough hydraulic extension to reach the work. Man baskets pinned onto hydraulic crane booms became a very normal option, and they were and still are widely used across the U.S. with little controversy. OSHA treated pin-on baskets just like crane-suspended baskets. The baskets had minimum criteria for construction, and both suspended man baskets and pin-on baskets had to undergo (1) a proof test specified by OSHA to ensure mounting integrity and (2) a trial lift to ensure the pin-on platform could safely navigate the planned path to the work and work area. These rules still apply to pin-on baskets and are currently enforced under 1926.1431, “Hoisting personnel.” OSHA has been extremely detailed in the safety requirements and enforcement because as the agency has stated, it is a necessary exception to the prohibition of lifting personnel because cranes are designed to lift material, not personnel.

Dual-Rated Cranes
Here is where the issue arises. The design and construction of cranes that are used to lift personnel in a pin-on man basket are covered under ASME B30.23, “Personnel Lifting Systems.” The design and construction standard for aerial lifts is covered under the ANSI A92 family of standards. The A92 standards are not applied to cranes fitted with a man basket. The B30.23 standard does not apply to aerial devices. This separation of classifications was fine until segments of the crane manufacturing industry – particularly National Crane, Altec and Custom Truck One Source – began rating cranes to the A92 standard. All of these manufacturers (and there may be others) are marketing dual-rated cranes that meet both the B30 standard for cranes and the A92 standard when used as a personnel lift with a pin-on basket. Most of them include a model that will reach 200 feet with a swing jib mounted. These A92/B30 dual-rated cranes have remote controls operated from the basket, outrigger sensors, level sensors and other minimum required safety features that make them A92-compliant personnel lifts. One of the values of a dual-rated crane is that it may not be required to perform the proof test and trial lift. The manufacturers recommend such safety checks, but technically speaking, the OSHA standard applies to cranes used to lift personnel, not A92-compliant personnel lifts. Still, even a bucket truck should be inspected before it is raised with personnel aboard. All of the manufacturers require it, and most employers require that the boom be flown to check its functions before personnel use it.

The Bottom Line 
At present, pin-on baskets are still permitted under the exceptions where A92-rated aerial lifts cannot reach the work elevation, are not safe or are not appropriate for the work. If you have access to an A92-rated lift, or access to a dual-rated B30.23/A92 lift that will reach the work, you must use it. If you use a pin-on man basket on a B30.23-covered crane, and an A92 lift is reasonably available, you are in violation of the OSHA crane standard.

I checked with two of the major crane manufacturers, who also manufacture bucket trucks and aerial platforms. If you’ve recently purchased a B30 crane, and that model is also available in an A92/B30.23 dual-rated version, the manufacturer can retrofit your B30 crane to be a dual-rated crane.

There is no date that the rules as explained above will be enforced. The evolution of dual-rated cranes was not foreseeable when the current rules were written. The justification for OSHA’s enforcement prohibiting pin-on personnel lifts in a B30.23 regulated crane does exist. As the manufacturing industry expands their offerings and increases the number of units available in the marketplace, the exceptions to crane-mounted baskets will cease to exist. I recommend that employers, especially contractors, have a frank conversation with their dealers regarding the availability of high-reach, dual-rated cranes. Start planning for the future, including the costs associated with the new equipment offerings.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].