New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to implement new safety rules only days after the tragic Tribeca Crane Collapse. Specifically, the mayor is reducing the wind-speed threshold at which such equipment, like a crawler crane, must be shut down.
That change is expected to take effect immediately. It is one of many new policies that the Mayor announced over the weekend as Department of Buildings and OSHA investigators continue to pour through evidence to try and determine the specific cause of this fatal accident. The changes also are being proposed as the city is facing intense scrutiny.
The new rules would require large cranes like this one to stop working and go into safety mode when there is: a forecast for steady wind speeds of 20 miles an hour or more or gusts that would reach at least 30 miles an hour. This represents a change from past protocol in that cranes were permitted to operate until measured wind speeds eclipsed 30 miles an hour or gusts reached 40 miles an hour. Other changes included a requirement that residence and business owners be notified when the location of a crane is moved. The Mayor outlined the changes by commenting that “if at the end of one workday there is a forecast for these kinds of wind levels the next workday, we will require that the crane be put into secure mode the day before.” Previously fines for this type of offense were $4800; they have now been increased to $10,000.
Reports indicate that the crane operator was given instructions that he should secure the crane that morning when, and if, winds exceeded 25 miles an hour. The crew started to lower the crane as winds hovered around 20 miles an hour. The weather conditions did not sneak up on any one. In fact, reports of a change in the wind conditions initially surfaced the day before the tragedy. Why wait until the morning when the wind picks up? The changes seek to address this on some level.
Questions have surfaced about these new policies. Weather data indicated that cranes would be out of operation for 40 days in a year if weather patterns were consistent with 2015. That is a lot of downtime for an industry that loses money every day they remain working on a job. Will there be forceful opposition to these changes? Oddly, city officials are saying these new policies are only temporary and that a task force will make further recommendations. The timing of these temporary solutions is also worth considering. This is all being done before any conclusions about the cause of the accident have been reached and while the city is being criticized for its previous antiquated approach to crane activity and mother nature. Let’s hope that this is not a reactive policy as opposed to proactive change and that these proposals and studies lead to an increase in crane safety. It can and will save lives.
“We all know there is a construction boom going on in our city,” Mayor de Blasio is quoted in a New York Times article. “Although we value the work that’s being done, we value what it means for our economy, we value the jobs that are being created – nothing is more important than the safety of our people.”
We couldn’t agree more so let’s find some solutions that will make the city better and safer for everyone. Block O’Toole & Murphy is a law firm that fights inside and outside of courtrooms throughout New York State for construction workers and their families.