Recent Efforts to Reduce Crane Accidents in New York City

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In February 2016, a crane being lowered flipped over when struck by 20 mph winds, sending its 565-foot-long arm plummeting to the ground on Worth Street and West Broadway, killing one Wall Street employee and injuring three other people. In response to the incident, the city secured 43 tower cranes and 376 crawler cranes pending investigation.

Over the past decade, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued several reforms regarding crane project regulation; however, a 2014 audit revealed that only 12 percent of the safety recommendations had been implemented.

Since 2009, construction in New York City has increased 300 percent. Most crane accidents occur at building with fewer than ten stories. In 2015 alone, 70 percent of crane accidents occurred at projects of fewer than ten stories.

To address the  problem of crane accidents in NYC, the mayor and DOB have created a comprehensive plan to improve safety at construction sites.

History of Crane Accidents in New York City

  • October 2007—Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park
  • December 2007—Battery Park City building
  • March 2008—Midtown East, seven fatalities and 24 injuries; the rigging contractor was subsequently acquitted of manslaughter
  • May 2008—Upper East side, two fatalities; the crane company owner was acquitted but was later sued in civil court.
  • April 2012—one fatality due to a falling crane at a subway construction site
  • January 2013—seven workers were injured when a crane collapsed in Queens
  • April 2013—one worker died due to a malfunctioning hydraulics on a boom truck that caused the crane to collapse
  • May 2015—a mobile crane dropped a 13-ton air conditioner in Manhattan, injuring ten people

In addition to these incidents where people were hurt or killed, there have also been several close calls, most notably during Superstorm Sandy near Carnegie Hall.

Due to criticism waged against her office for failing to ensure construction site safety, former NYC Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster resigned in April 2008.

Current Efforts to Improve Crane Safety

Mayor Bill de Blasio and DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler announced enhanced penalties for serious construction safety lapses and increased enforcement sweeps, as well as mandating greater supervision at construction sites. These efforts are part of a $120 million modernization plan that also includes:

  • Raising penalties for serious safety lapses from $2,400 to $10,000
  • Increasing penalties for projects without an on-site construction superintendent from $5,000 to as much as $25,000
  • Conducting sweeps of contractors with poor safety records at projects of fewer than ten stories
  • Increasing oversight at projects of fewer than ten stories

Additionally, the DOB adopted greater safety measures including hiring more inspectors, expanding inspection checklists, requiring construction companies to file plans for crane erection/dismantling, and mandating crane operators to complete 30 hours of initial training and eight-hour refresher training every three years.

Of particular concern is that at any one time, at least 300 cranes are operating within New York City.

At Abend & Silber we know how construction accidents can cause serious injury and hardship for workers and their families. New York has strong Labor Laws to protect workers from injuries on the job and it is critical that these laws remain in effect so that property owners and contractors will prioritize worker safety in all NYC construction sites.

For more information about crane safety and new regulations, or for any other questions, please contact us.

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