Fatal Crane Collapse Prompts NYC to Institute New Safety Policies

By Denise Johnson | February 12, 2016

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has implemented new safety procedures, including a new task force, as a result of the fatal crane collapse that occurred a week ago.

On Monday, February 7, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference to discuss the details on the incident as well provide information on new policies being implemented relating to crane safety.

“There’s a full investigation going on to review everything that happened on Friday, to determine exactly what caused this accident, and to determine changes that may be necessary in policies as a result of it,” said de Blasio. “The investigation is underway, it will take weeks for sure, some elements may take several months.”

The NYC mayor outlined the known facts. “Just before 8:30AM on Friday morning, a crane collapsed here along Worth Street between West Broadway and Church.”

A 38-year-old man, David Wichs, was killed as a result of the collapse and three others were injured.

The Department of Buildings personnel visited the worksite the prior morning and found it to be in proper order, the mayor said.

“The workers on Friday morning did not begin work on the site, but immediately seeing the winds, made the move to secure the crane, so their timing was appropriate. Upon arrival, they immediately determined the need to secure the crane,” the mayor said.

“Investigation’s underway now, including by NYPD and the Department of Buildings, and there is a forensic investigation underway looking at the equipment itself.”

The day of the crane collapse, NYC officials ordered all 376 crawler cranes in the city as well as 53 larger tower cranes be secured because of the wind gusts.

Commissioner Rick Chandler, Department of Buildings, explained that a crawler crane is a crane that has tracks on it, like a tank, as opposed to a mobile crane which has wheels.

New safety policies effective immediately, according to de Blasio, include restrictions on crawler cranes, added sidewalk protections and notification procedures, as well as the establishment of a new task force to gauge crane safety standards.

The new restrictions on crawler cranes mandates that they “must cease operation and go into safety mode whenever steady winds are forecast to exceed 20 miles an hour or gusts are forecast to exceed 30 miles per hour,” said de Blasio.

The mayor offered an example where there is a forecast for high wind levels the next work day, crawler crane operators will be required put them in secure mode the day before. If crane operators fail to comply they could be cited and ordered to pay fines.

“We’ll send advisories to crane engineers when wind conditions warrant it, and engineers will be required to certify that they will indeed cease operations,” de Blasio said. “If we don’t receive this certification, we will be issuing violations and we will raise the base penalty for failure to safeguard a site from the current $4,800 dollars to $10,000 dollars.”

The Department of Buildings, Department of Transportation, the New York Police Department and the Fire Department for the City of New York will team up to ramp up enforcement of pedestrian protections, the mayor said.

“In any situation where there will be a securing of a crane and pedestrians are not supposed to pass in the affected area, of course, we’ll require the work crews to ensure that that’s not happening. They are liable for violations if they do not do that…on top of that, we’ll be sending in uniformed city personnel to ensure that pedestrians are kept safe,” de Blasio added.

Another new policy is that neighboring residents and businesses will be notified when a crane will be moved into a secure position.

“Previously, operators were only required to notify the community when a crane was first installed. We will now require notification of the surrounding community when a crane is being put into a secure position,” de Blasio said.

Lastly, the NYC mayor emphasized the crane accident investigation will be thorough and a new task force will consider the investigation results in determining if new safety measures are needed.

“We’re putting a task force to propose additional regulations and additional best practices to make sure New York City’s cranes are the safest in the world. Over the next 90 days, the task force will work to evaluate Friday’s collapse and to determine if we need additional safety strategies,” de Blasio said.

Recent data on crane collapses is scarce.

According to a 2008 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that looked at 2006 data, there were 72 crane-related fatal occupational injuries, which was a decline from an average of 78 fatalities per year from 2003 to 2005. The report noted that “mobile, truck, and rail mounted cranes, and overhead cranes represented the type of crane involved for the majority of fatalities.”

An alert issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in 2006, following investigations conducted by the agency, suggested workers may not be fully aware of the hazards that can occur when operating or working near mobile cranes. The alert stated that “crane tip-overs can result from operating a crane outside the manufacturer’s recommended safe lifting capacity. Booms can collapse for reasons such as overloading, improper disassembly procedures, and improper rigging. Both crane tip-over and boom collapse can result in workers being struck by parts of the crane or uncontrolled hoisted loads.”

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