The Tribeca Crane Collapse has again made crane safety in New York City newsworthy. The tragic Crane collapse has brought to light the inexplicable apathy in which the Department of Buildings has prioritized worker safety and keeping people safe in and around construction work involving cranes. Specifically, 5 years ago there was a very forceful report that highlighted an enormous list of shortcomings with respect to how the Department of Buildings was handling crane safety in our city. The report made recommendations to make the work safer. The recommendations were largely ignored by the agency entrusted with overseeing construction work and safety.
The Department of buildings commissioned a study that was released in 2010. This was on the heels of several fatal crane accidents and a great deal of media attention concerning the accident. They paid a whopping $5,800,000 for the study. The study made 65 Independent safety recommendations that would help make crane work safer. As of this week only 8 of the 65 safety recommendations had been fully implemented. That amounts to less than a measly 12%. It also does not account for what is described as a “serious weakness in the Department’s oversight of the way it implements safety recommendations,” according to an audit released by the New Your City Comptroller last week. The Comptroller Scott M. Stringer scolded the agency, saying “Crane safety is a crisis, but the city has not treated it like one. There have been at least 4 significant crane collapses in New York City in just the past 2 1/2 years and yet dangerous, life – threatening conditions still exist.” Stringer continues to state the obvious, “when cranes collapse, it shakes everyone’s confidence that we live in the city where people can feel safe and build their families and businesses.” What happens to our collective confidence when the city pays someone more than $5 million to do a safety study and then their recommendations to the city agency in charge of implementing changes to make crane work safer are completely ignored?
Less than 12% of the safety recommendations have been implemented after more than 4 years have passed. 12% in more than 4 years? And, that statistic is from recommendations that were made publicly. What would the figure be if the study and its recommendations were not made public? Frightening. This gives you an idea of how inefficient the Department of Buildings really is and it also reveals how low on the totem pole construction and worker safety is in the eyes of city government. A report released by Stringer’s office describes the Department of Buildings using some frightening language, like, “the agency is in disarray”, that it fails to “keep up with 21st Century safety and technology”, and charged that the agency is “sleeping on the job.” It is more than mildly disturbing that the city spent more than $5 million on a study to “improve crane safety” but then wholly failed to implement the changes that were recommended in the study they paid for. It is incompetence at the highest levels and impossible to justify. Did they really think a hard-hitting study and a fancy press conference would ameliorate the concerns – – and they could stand pat?
Workers should be have an opportunity to do their job in a safe environment and citizens, who either live in or work in the city, deserve a lot better. Hopefully the publicity that is generated as a result of these failures will lead to some critical changes in the way cranes are used in New York City. As you know, we will be watching.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a team of lawyers that prides itself on fighting for construction workers and their families. You can learn more about this group of talented attorneys and their almost $1 billion track record of verdicts and settlements by reviewing the firm website further at www.BlockOToole.com. They are also available for a free consultation at 212-736-5300.