Deadly or near-fatal crane accidents around the nation in recent months have spurred safety reviews, triggered fines and left survivors shaking.
In Miami and Dade County, a hotbed of construction in Florida, a crane industry work group is considering safety recommendations after a construction worker plunged 39 stories to his death in April when a piece of the crane he was on came crashing down.
The 20-member group includes representatives of Salem, Ore.-based Morrow Equipment, which owned the crane involved in the Florida fatality.
Morrow also is the U.S. distributor for Liebherr, the Germany company that made the crane involved in last week’s fatal accident in Bellevue.
The Florida group might make recommendations in codes and standards, hurricane preparedness, inspection and enforcement, and crane operator qualifications. The group is expected to require all operators to be certified at a level equivalent to that advocated by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators in Fairfax, Va.
The commission is a non-profit organization that establishes and administers a nationwide program for the certification of crane operators, which includes physical, practical and written examinations and compliance with substance-abuse policies.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson said she called for the formation of the group because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected cranes only after an incident and not routinely.
“Whenever you have deaths involved and there is self-regulation, that is proof right there that self-regulation is not enough,” Edmondson recently told Cranes Today, an industry publication.
Another panel member, Jim Robertson, managing director of General Crane USA in Pompano Beach, supports creating a state license for crane operators working in Florida because it would “force people to train who don’t train,” he told the Miami Herald.
In September, the state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health levied a $37,000 fine against the employer of a crane operator killed June 22 in Livermore.
The state’s investigation found that the crane was overloaded, causing it to topple and crush the operator. The operator was trying to lift 22 tons of wire at a construction site — 15 tons more than the maximum weight allotted.
Also in September, OSHA fined a contractor on a huge Colorado highway project $14,000 for failing to properly operate and adequately inspect a crane that tipped over and killed its operator on April 23. The crane had only been inspected four days in April and had not undergone a more rigorous monthly inspection in March or April, violating OSHA requirements of daily and monthly inspections.
In New York City, a 4-ton piece of a crane plunged 21 stories from a condominium construction site Sept. 29, flattening the right half of a taxi. Miraculously, the driver and his passenger, seated behind him, escaped injury.
Three workers in the crane suffered broken bones and bruises when the weight of the structure shifted violently, throwing them around the control room.
Authorities said a 13 1/2-foot section of the crane broke free when pins came loose. A spokeswoman for the city’s building department told the New York Daily News that the agency “anticipates issuing violations for what transpired.”