Oftentimes it seems that when the dust settles, accidents that appeared to come out of the blue were in fact wholly predictable because someone tried to cut a corner or save money in the face of a known danger. Such may have been the case in a construction accident when a crane collapsed last May on East 91st Street in Manhattan. It has recently been reported that 10 months before the accident a Chinese company hired to repair a critical component involved in the fatal crane collapse warned the cranes owner that it was concerned that it did not know the proper welding techniques for the damaged bearing ring. Nevertheless, the owner, New York Crane and Equipment Corp., authorized the Chinese company, RTR Bearings, in July 2007 to make the welds on the tower cranes damaged turntable.
Why? Apparently because the Chinese company proposed doing the job for $20,000, compared to an Ohio company, Avon Bearings, which said the job would cost $120,127 and would take 28 weeks. Investigators now believe that a weld in the rebuilt turntable failed, causing the top of the crane to break away and plunge to the street, killing the workers, Ramadan Kurtaj, 27, and Donald C. Leo, 30.
That fatal accident and another one two months earlier led to corruption arrests that focused on the Buildings Department unit that inspects cranes and licenses operators. That fatal tower crane accident followed one in March of last year, leading New York City to institute a series of reforms to increase safety and oversight in the construction industry, including;
1. Synthetic slings, identified as a possible factor in the collapse, are prohibited unless the manufacturer recommends their use.
2. A professional engineer is required to submit a detailed rigging and assembly plan to the Department prior to tower crane erection or jumps so that our inspectors in the field can confirm that the plan is followed.
3. The rigger and the members of the assembly crew are required to be identified and to meet and review the approved plan on site before the jump to discuss roles and inspect equipment.
4. All members of the assembly crew are required to take a 30 hour safety course in crane assembly and disassembly.
New Buildings Department rules aimed at preventing another crane collapse have been proposed. The city wants to keep better track of critical tower crane parts, including their turntables, frames, booms, machine decks and other sections. Lou Coletti of the Building Trades Employers Association said the industry might try to model its crane-oversight program after the Carfax system which tracks car repairs. Manufacturers are concerned that they are not being contacted when crane components are being damaged and repaired, meaning that a crane can be repaired inconsistent with the manufacturers engineering standards and transferred to an unknowing operator.
The City is also concerned that proposed new U.S. Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA) rules concerning cranes will explicitly preempt state and local regulation of cranes. The rules displace local inspectors and rely on the industry to police itself. If put into effect, the City of New York will be precluded from protecting the public from unsafe cranes, Buildings Commissioner Robert Limandri testified before OSHA last month. Mr. Limandri noted with apparent pride that the City licenses the riggers who oversee crane assembly; we license the operators who lift the concrete, steel, building materials and equipment into those skyscrapers; we review the plans submitted by engineers for crane erection and use. New York City also has inspectors on the City’s streets and at construction sites who are empowered to issue Stop Work Orders and issue violations when cranes are being operated unsafely.
The personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims, including for workers injured at construction sites. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas.