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Dems Push for Tougher Rules Following Crane Collapse Deaths

Jul 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Six people have died in  crane collapses this week alone, prompting lawmakers in Congress to push for tougher rules for construction crane work. On Tuesday, nine Senate Democrats sent a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, urging the adoption of tougher standards.

On Thursday, an elderly man was killed in Oklahoma City when the boom of a crane fell on his car.   Just the day before, an iron worker in Normal, Ill., who was assembling girders at a construction site, died when the boom of a crane fell on him.   And last Friday, four Houston construction workers were killed when a 30-story crane, one of the world's largest, collapsed at the LyondellBasell Industries refinery in Houston. Seven other workers were injured in that accident.

This year New York City saw two fatal crane collapses within a two month period.  The most recent, which killed two construction workers, occurred in May, 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 that 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.

Seven other people were killed because of a crane collapse that occurred in March, just a couple of miles south of last month’s tragedy.  Following that incident, 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.

According to The Wall Street Journal, this year, at least 18 construction workers have died in crane-related accidents. That figure doesn't include bystanders' deaths.

The Senators' letter  said it was "unfathomable" that Chao's department, which is responsible for maintaining worker safety, including inspecting cranes, hadn't implemented recommendations made in 2004 by industry and labor to issue a new standard to improve crane safety.  

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