On February 5, 2016, a large crane fell in the Tribeca area of Manhattan and killed one pedestrian. There were three other injuries associated with the fall, and there was a tremendous amount of damage to surrounding buildings and the street. After the accident, the city of New York banned any cranes that were not rated to be used in wind speeds of 20 MPH or slower. However, the question at the moment is whether or not more stringent crane safety laws are needed.
New Crane Safety Requirements
When a company puts together a construction safety plan, there are several elements that need to be included. One of the more important parts of any construction safety plan is the part that deals with pedestrian safety. People walking past a construction site should not have to fear for their lives because the construction company did not take adequate precautions. What the crane accident of February 2016 showed is that companies need to be told what is safe, instead of assuming that they know how to create safe work areas on their own.
Along with banning any cranes that cannot operate in less than 20 MPH winds, the city also created strict rules about how approved cranes were to operate in windy weather. When those new rules were put in place, contractors immediately complained that production was being affected because cranes were constantly having to be raised and lowered to accommodate the changing weather.
New York Taking Action After Accidents Happen
The February incident, along with two fatal crane accidents that occurred in 2008, necessitated that the city takes action. As a result, the city has considered requiring two pieces of equipment to be installed in all cranes beginning immediately. The first is a black box that would capture all of the actions the operator took and any type of readings the crane was giving just prior to the accident.
The operator of the February 2016 crane accident was not injured and he did not have alcohol in his system, but many still believe the accident to be his fault. There was a black box installed on the February 2016 crane, but city officials have not yet released the information that was found. In these types of situations, a black box could clear or condemn an operator almost definitively.
The city would also like to see the continuation of the use of devices that measure wind gusts where cranes are located and can indicate when cranes should be shut down. These types of devices were mandated after the February collapse, but the city is considering loosening the criteria for shutting down cranes in windy weather.
Adding New Personnel To Increase Safety
Along with the black boxes, the city is also recommending that contractors hire meteorologists and lift managers to make crane activities safer. A lift manager would be responsible for taking information from the meteorologist and site supervisor to determine whether or not it would be safe to allow large cranes to work in current weather conditions. The lift manager would also be responsible for working with the meteorologists to develop schedules for crane operation based on weather patterns.
The manager, or director, would also be responsible for making sure that all aspects of the crane operation meet city codes. From the size of the crane to its age to the qualifications of the operator; the lift manager would be completely responsible for making sure that each aspect of a crane operation is safe and up to code prior to the start of operations.
Other Changes To The Laws
New York City is also recommending updates to current crane laws to make construction safety a priority on every job site. The most notable change is that cranes will have an expiration date, and any crane used that is older than the law allows will bring stiff penalties and will have the entire job shut down.
The New York City Department of Buildings will attempt to take a more active role in inspecting crane operations, and making certain that all current laws are being followed. At this point, New York City lacks the necessary amount of inspectors to keep up with the rise in construction activity. Nonetheless, the city has taken it upon itself to increase its staff and do its part to maintain construction safety.
New York City is growing at a pace that some say is too fast for city officials to keep up with. In 2008, the city experienced two fatal crane accidents and took action to try and prevent further issues. But when another fatal crane accident occurred in February 2016, the city decided to take comprehensive action that will help to lower crane accidents and increase pedestrian safety.