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Crane Collapses, Construction Deaths Prompt New York City to Consider New Safety Policies

Jun 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP An "unacceptably high" number of construction accident deaths in New York City this year has prompted the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to announce a new set of safety recommendations.  The proposal comes less than a week after a crane collapse on Manhattan's upper East Side - the second fatal crane accident in the city since March - killed two construction workers.

Sixteen people have died as a result of New York City construction accidents this  year.  The most recent deaths occurred last Friday, when a 200 foot crane perched atop a high-rise under construction collapsed and fell about 30 stories to the ground below. In addition to the two fatalities, a third worker was seriously injured.  A large portion of an adjacent high-rise apartment building was destroyed as well.  The investigation into last week's crane collapse is said to be focusing on a rebuilt part that may have failed. The Manhattan District Attorneys' office has also launched a criminal probe into the incident.

Another seven construction deaths in the city this year were the result of a crane collapse that occurred in March, just a couple of miles south of last week's tragedy.  Following that tragedy, a city inspector - who allegedly had lied about inspecting the doomed crane in the weeks before the collapse - was arrested for falsifying records. The March crane collapse also led to the resignation of New York City Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster.  

The cranes in both the March collapse and the one that occurred last week were owned by the same company, New York Crane and Equipment.  

Now, according to Newsday, the Mayor's office is proposing a system that would track contractors' safety records and shut down the most serious offenders.  The proposal also calls for mandatory crane training for workers who "rig" cranes, an issue that critics said may have contributed to the March  crane collapse. The Newsday report says the package proposed by the administration does not contain any measures that directly address the possible failure of the rebuilt part implicated in last Friday's crane collapse. However, city officials say they plan to announce more crane safety proposals soon.
The proposal also calls for allowing the Buildings Department to assign a safety monitor to projects with poor safety records, raising penalties to $25,000 for violations like a tripping hazard, and fining building owners who don't report structural problems.

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