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Another New York City Crane Collapse

Thursday, 30 May 2008
Another Crane collapses in Manhattan, New York

[Click here for SafetyNews - 6 on the earlier one]

     
The Swamp
NYC crane crash another prod for OSHA

A large crane lies in this intersection on Manhattan's Upper East Side after it collapsed Friday, May 30, 2008 in New York City just before first responders arrived. (AP Photo/Seth Holladay) by Frank James

It's still too early to know what caused today's deadly construction crane collapse in New York City, the second this year. But it's safe to say this--the accident is likely to increase calls for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to play a more active role in helping to prevent such accidents. That's what happened following this year's earlier collapse of a crane in Manhattan which killed seven people.

A May 2, 2008 editorial in the Baltimore Sun noted that the deadly accident in March spurred state and local officials into action to retrain their construction inspectors. That wasn't enough, however, said the newspaper which added this:
... The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration should really take the lead in this area to ensure that training for crane operators coincides with changes in the industry. About 80 workers each year die from crane-related incidents, according to OSHA.

It just so happens that OSHA has been working on an update of federal crane safety rules which apparently haven't been revised in more than 30 years despite numerous advances in crane technology -- the equipment being more hydraulic and computerized now than they were decades ago, according to this piece from this Seton Alerts for Safety newsletter.
In August, OSHA is scheduled to issue what's called a notice of proposed rule-making, essentially the new rules for  operating construction cranes that it arrived at by having industry experts agree on what the new rules should be.

As the Seton newsletter explains, it was actually the construction industry that approached OSHA to change the rules. The industry wanted better training for workers who operate the cranes since there was the strong sense in the industry that many operators didn't know as much as they needed to, given the changes in crane technology.

While the newsletter explains that there was some altruism to the construction companies' position, it also made business sense. For instance, the old rules prevented cranes from being used within a certain distance from power lines and that presented a problem for some construction projects.

But accidents like today's also have an obviously negative affect on construction. According to the newsletter: Dale Daul, director of construction risk control for The St. Paul Cos., a commercial property and casualty insurance provider with headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., put his finger on another reason many companies may welcome an updated OSHA standard. "A crane is by far the most dangerous and costly piece of equipment on job sites. If it fails, you're lucky if several people don't die in the process. Yet, normally contractors do a very poor job of managing cranes."

Consultant Brad Closson, vice president at the San Diego office of the North American Crane Bureau, explained that losses stemming from a crane failure do not stop with the incident itself. "Personal experience tells me that after a crane incident, productivity drops dramatically," said Closson, who spends much of his time doing crane accident investigations. "Everyone is focused on the horror of what has just occurred."

In the aftermath of a major crane failure, incident rates go up because instead of paying attention to their safety, workers are preoccupied. Supervisors and managers are besieged with these smaller problems as well as the consequences of the disaster, which may include lawsuits, bad press, higher insurance premiums or the loss of insurance altogether.
"This is why a crane incident is the last kind of problem you want to have, and why, after a crane incident, most companies have a stand-down period to address all the issues at once," Closson said.

Ironically, OSHA and the New York City agency responsible for inspecting cranes only a couple of weeks ago signed an agreement to cross-pollinate their inspectors in order to prevent accidents like today's.

This from a story dated May 14, 2008 on the Occupational Health and Safety magazine website:
Two months after a tower crane collapsed at a condominium project in Manhattan, OSHA announced yesterday it has joined an alliance with the New York City Department of Design and Construction to address construction hazards in all five boroughs of the city. Seven people died when the crane fell March 15, and the city's buildings commissioner, Patricia Lancaster, resigned April 22 after telling the city council that her department had erroneously issued permits for the construction project where the crane was being used.

The two partners will cross-train their inspectors and managers on each other's construction safety standards, regulations, and procedures, focusing on the most common construction hazards likely to cause accidents, injuries, and deaths. "This alliance formalizes an already active and positive cooperative relationship between OSHA and DDC," said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA's acting regional administrator in New York. "A more thorough knowledge of each other's specific practices, procedures, and requirements will increase our ability to work together to identify and prevent hazards and enhance safety for construction employees throughout New York City."

Obviously, too little, too late for the people involved in today's horrible accident.

© 2008 Tribune Interactive -- NYC crane crash another prod for OSHA (The Swamp)
http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/politics/blog/2008/05/printer-ny_crane_crash_another_prod_fo.html 31/5/2008

CLICK HERE (or paste the following link) for a live CNN feed video on the accident

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/05/30/crane.collapse/?iref=hpmostpop#cnnSTCVideo