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NY Construction Industry Criticizes City's New Crane Rules

Nov 12, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that in addition to maintenance records and operator certification tests, engineers now must sign off before cranes are raised or dismantled in New York City.  The city is also now requiring documents that prove a safety meeting was held prior to work starting.  While some find the steps extreme, New York City is hoping to become a national example for crane safety, after two deadly crane collapses that in Manhattan earlier this year killed nine people.

New York wasn’t the only city to experience crane accidents this year, the AP notes.  Houston, Miami, and Las Vegas also saw accidents, which prompted the federal government in September to propose updated crane regulations for the first time in four decades, reports the AP.  New York introduced stricter rules governing constructions, adding to those required by the federal government that include laws requiring training for tower crane workers, limiting the use of slings that hold loads, and overhauling licensing requirements for mobile crane operators.  “We have worked closely with industry officials to develop checks and balances that are making construction sites safer than ever before," city Department of Buildings spokesman Kate Lindquist said. "There are thousands of construction sites in New York City that are managed without incident every day, and there is no reason why developers cannot build safely to avoid any preventable delays."

Manhattan’s construction industry disagrees, saying that the new rules “are difficult to follow, hard to enforce, and often cause costly delays,” reports the AP.  Contractors point out that construction sites are often shut down for days or weeks for minor violations, such as a missing piece of paperwork.  Shutting down construction at a high-profile site can cost in excess of $100,000 daily.  "In some respects, it's already overkill," said Louis Coletti, president of New York's Building Trades Employers Association. "You've got new rules and regulations coming out every day."

But, a crane crashed into a town house in midtown Manhattan on March 15.  That accident caused the death of seven people.  A crane still has not returned to that development site.  In the May 30th crash, two workers were killed.  A crane was finally re-erected in September.  The AP reported that work stopped at both sites for months, and the second site was ordered to stop again last week over a missing permit.  The AP also reports that, “Coletti said contractors have received orders from multiple inspectors with conflicting interpretations of building codes, and finding an inspector to lift an order can be as challenging as fixing the violation.”

Contractors are specifically angry over a requirement that engineers or manufacturers certify plans to raise tower cranes, the AP reports.  Contractors say professionals likely will not approve plans for work they can not supervise.  Alfred G. Gerosa, executive director of the Cement League, whose members often contract crane work, said in September that the rule could "shut down the entire tower crane industry in the city," the AP reported.  Also in the AP report, Frank Bardonaro, president of a suburban Philadelphia crane rental company and head of the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association's crane safety task force, called New York's rules "unenforceable."

Regardless, according to the AP, Manhattan says the regulations are standard across the construction industry and are needed to maintain safety.


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