From 2014 to 2015, the number of construction deaths in New York City rose from eight to 11. With the dramatic increase in construction going on in New York City, it seems like the number of construction deaths is rising at an even more rapid pace. The New York City Department of Buildings hired more inspectors for 2016 to try and help slow the pace of construction deaths. However, it seems as though crane safety is an issue that cannot be controlled with more inspectors.
Crane Accidents Making Headlines
In February 2016, a large crane fell over in Manhattan and killed a pedestrian. None of the new city inspectors could have prevented the accident, but that did not stop the city from stepping in and creating a variety of new crane safety laws. After the Manhattan accident, companies were required to stop operating large cranes when the winds were gusting at 20 M.P.H. or faster. The construction companies complained, but the fine for not complying with the new law was raised to $10,000 per instance. But not even new laws could help protect people from a crane accident when one is destined to happen.
Later in 2016, a Queens crane operator was trying to maneuver a large steel beam into place when the rope supporting the beam gave way. The beam fell directly onto the crane cab, killing the crane operator instantly. A worker who was on the beam trying to guide it into place fell with the beam to his death.
Once again, the idea of a crane accident is dominating the New York City news, and nothing the city had done in response to the previous crane accidents helped in this instance. The new safety inspectors and laws regulating crane use did not prevent two more deaths, and now the city and the construction industry are trying to figure out why.
The Core Of The Problem
There has been no indication that the two workers who were killed in Queens were violating any safety laws, but the worker who was standing on the beam without any safety harness in place was definitely not practicing safe working habits. The beam that fell weighed 6,500 pounds and was being moved using a rope. Was that the wrong type of equipment for the job?
While there were potential errors in judgment for the Queens accident, it remains to be seen if any laws have been broken. The job site has been shut down pending an investigation, and the contractor is participating fully in that investigation. After only a few months to recover from the last major crane accident, New York City once again finds itself highlighting crane safety and working to find ways to save lives.
Progress After The Accidents
The laws enacted by Mayor de Blasio after the above mentioned Manhattan crane collapse were actually laws that had been on the books but rarely enforced. Contractors complained that the regulations were not only difficult to comply with but costly as well. As part of the regulations, companies are required to hire a safety manager whose only job is to monitor wind speed and determine when the cranes need to be taken down.
The added personnel costs and the costs associated with constantly raising and lowering cranes based on New York
City weather pushed New York City contractors to take the city to court over the crane laws. The contractors maintain that there is no scientific basis for the crane laws, while the city states that these safety laws have been unchallenged for decades.
Safety Concerns Are Still An Issue
With another major crane accident taking center stage in New York City and the attempt at a solution for previous issues now held up in court, it will be interesting to see how the city and the contractors move forward on this issue.
Crane safety is a growing concern in New York City, and the mounting death toll due to crane accidents is not helping the situation. Once again, the city and the contractors have to sit across from the negotiating table to find ways to protect workers who put their lives on the line to build the city’s new skyline. Hopefully, some kind of solution is reached before another crane accident takes center stage in the headlines.