Last year, there were two fatal tower crane crashes in New York City, as well as dozens of others throughout the country, including Houston, Las Vegas and Miami. In an effort to track equipment failures, manufacturers recalls, accidents and industry trends, the New York City Buildings Department recently announced an unprecedented partnership with the cities of Chicago and Philadelphia to share critical data on tower cranes erected within their borders.
At present, there are more than 50 active tower cranes in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia. Under the information-sharing agreement, building officials will share information about the design and operation of active tower cranes, as well as other important details, such as crane equipment failures, manufacturer recalls, operational trends and accidents. This new communication network is set to launch by the end of June, and other municipal and state agencies across the country are expected to join in the coming months. The information will be stored in a common database and updated quarterly.
This registration and history will provide more information than any one city could obtain or track on its own. The new database will track 10 specific items in each jurisdiction, including: the number of active tower cranes, the locations of their operation, the name of the crane owner, the make, model, model year, maximum height and serial number of each tower crane and the dates when each one is erected and dismantled. The information will be used by each jurisdiction to help determine the operational history of a tower crane and whether it is safe to be operated.
According to a Buildings Department press release, there is no national database to track tower cranes or their parts, which easily move through municipal and state jurisdictions with varying degrees of oversight, requirements and inspectorial resources. The current federal crane regulations are more than 40 years old, and a modern set of standards proposed by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not include any requirements for crane tracking. As an example of the advantages of this program, earlier this year a crane owner attempted to register a mobile tower crane for use in New York City.
However, the Department received an anonymous tip that the crane was involved in a recent accident in Toronto, Canada. The registration of the crane has been denied pending an ongoing investigation by the Department’s Cranes and Derricks Unit. Crane tracking is one of the recommendations stemming from the High Risk Construction Oversight study, which the Department launched in July to improve crane, hoists, excavations and concrete operations citywide.
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