Since its last revision, the EU standard for mobile cranes, EN 13000, has been a bone of contention for crane users and manufacturers around the world, and particularly between European manufacturers and American users. Now, a new proposal may heal the rift.

The transatlantic debate over the EN 13000:2010 revision has its roots in concerns among European regulators over misuse of the operators’ rated capacity limiter override switch. Before the revision, operators could hit a switch in the cab and continue lifting, even if the crane was overloaded. EN13000:2010 moved the override switch out of the cab. A recent ESTA survey of users of cranes built to the standard received 60 responses from across the EU. Largely, European users welcomed the change, as it put more emphasis on planning lifts correctly, and removed pressure to push cranes beyond their limits.

American users, in particular, take a different view of the role of operators and devices. In the ‘Land of the free’, the operator is sovereign of his cab. US users like to trust a competent operator, not a capacity limiter. They are reluctant to buy new or used cranes built to the standard.

That philosophical division is likely to remain. Another problem cited by opponents of the revision may be approaching resolution. In some emergencies (say, in a bridge crane disassembly, where the load is heavier than expected) it can be vital to lower the load as quickly as possible. Without an override switch in the cab, this is impossible.

Recently, the German worker’s compensation insurance organisation (the functional equivalent of other countries’ health and safety regulators) and German manufacturers met to develop a proposed new revision to EN13000. For a limited time after hitting an emergency switch in the cab, the operator would be able to use all movements at full speed, in order to move out of the emergency situation. After a time limit (proposed at 120 seconds), the crane would be locked for two hours. This is intended both to allow for a proper inspection, and to discourage misuse of the switch. During the lock down period, hoisting down would still be possible, in order to allow the operator to safely lower the load. Using the external bridging device, outside the cab, the crane could be derigged at any time, working at 15% of original speed.

The proposal is only a starting point: even manufacturers involved in developing it are unsure that the 120 second time limit is long enough, for example. Hopefully though, it will offer a way for crane users around the world to come to agreement.