Installation of a burial vault a construction activity?

February 26, 2013

Re: Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard; Is installation of a burial vault a construction activity?

Dear Mr. Mo***

Thank you for your May 31, 2012, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Construction, in which you express the position that equipment used to place burial vaults in an open grave is not covered by OSHA's Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.

OSHA is aware that members (and customers) of the National Concrete Burial Vault Association (NCBVA) use specially designed trailers and vehicles equipped with a frame-supported beam to lift, move, and install concrete burial vaults. NCBVA asserts that placing concrete burial vaults into graves is a unique activity with specialized equipment, and that this is not a construction operation.

OSHA's Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard covers hoisting equipment used in conjunction with a construction activity. Although the act of excavating a grave would be considered a construction activity, the placement of a burial vault in the grave is not a form of construction. There are no connections, either mechanical or electrical, made from a burial vault to other objects or structures. Once the burial vault is placed in the ground, there is no further construction work performed to build onto or otherwise alter its structure. During the placement process, the burial vault is not arranged in a sequence for further hoisting, an action that indicates construction crane activity.

In contrast to the placement of burial vaults, the hoisting of tanks and precast components/structural members, such as sewer pipes and electric vaults, into an excavation would be considered a construction activity because those components/members are positioned by a crane as part of a larger operation, system or structure, and these objects are then connected to other structures, systems, or foundations. The use of a crane in such situations is part of a construction-related operation and would therefore fall within the requirements of the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.

To summarize, because the movement and placement of burial vaults is not a construction activity, the specialized equipment used to move/place burial vaults (in a grave) at the cemetery is not covered by the Cranes nd Derricks in Construction standard. As a result, the hazards associated with placement of burial vaults would be appropriately addressed by requirements of mechanized equipment standards for general industry work, including 29 CFR 1910.180, Crawler, Locomotive, and Truck Cranes, or 29 CFR 1910.178, Powered Industrial Trucks and other Specialized Equipment.

As referenced in your letter, OSHA issued a letter of interpretation to the Honorable Ron Kind on October 15, 1999, which stated that the Agency considers activities related to grave excavation as a construction covered by Subpart P Excavations of 29 CFR Part 1926. During grave excavation, hoisting equipment would be covered by the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard when used, for example, to move or place trench boxes and shoring needed to protect employees from excavation hazards.

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