OSHA Cites Contractors in Deadly New York Crane Collapse

September 17, 2008

A federal agency hit three construction firms with penalties totaling $313,500 on Monday for safety violations that led to a tower crane collapse that killed seven people in March.

The citations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration named Reliance Contractors Group, the general contractor; Rapetti Rigging Services Inc., of Massapequa Park, N.Y., the crane erector; and Joy Contractors Inc., of Elizabeth, N.J., the concrete subcontractor on the project.

The charges ranged from failure to properly train employees about job site hazards to allowing fire, falling and other hazards to exist. OSHA said Rapetti had failed to comply with the crane manufacturer’s specifications when erecting and raising the steel tower and to provide for protection against workers falling. One of its employees was killed.

The 19-story tower crane broke away from a luxury apartment building under construction and fell like a tree across other buildings as far as a block away. A brownstone town house was demolished, and some area residents later said they had been fearful that the crane was unstable.

A city construction site inspector was later charged with falsely claiming he had inspected the crane 11 days before the mishap.

“Ultimately, the crane collapse was a failure to follow basic but essential construction safety processes,” Richard Mendelson, area director of the OSHA, said in a statement.

The midtown Manhattan incident was one in a wave of fatal construction mishaps in the city dating to last year. On May 30, another tower crane broke apart and fell on an apartment building, killing two workers. Other crane operations were suspended temporarily.

“This case illustrates in stark terms that failure to follow required procedures can have wide-ranging and catastrophic consequences,” said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Reliance Construction Group and Joy Contractors did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Rapetti’s attorney did not return a call.

According to OSHA, Reliance Construction Group was issued 11 citations totaling $19,500 in proposed penalties, Rapetti Rigging was issued three with penalties totaling $220,000 and Joy Contractor was issued one repeat and 14 serious citations worth $74,000.

Mendelson said Rapetti was cited for improperly using slings recommended by the crane’s manufacturer to stabilize the crane.

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