Crane collapse in New York, 2 dead, 2 critical

"You can be safe, you can do everything you can do, but construction is a very complex and dangerous business."- Donald trump

My heart goes out to the families affected

This accident is completely different from the accident on March 15th., this crane was not being 'jumped', it was fully inspected and in service. There was no load on the crane, nothing fell and hit the crane. It just toppled at the "turn table" from the weight of the crane, boom and counterweights. This should not happen, ever.

Commenting to a reporter from the New York Times on Friday Louis J. Coletti, who is president of the Building Trades Employers' Association, said "you've seen some new regulation put into place by the City, but today we're talking about an incident where every regulation has been followed."

Bloomberg (5/31/08) follows with:
Acting Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said he ordered the suspensions even though the city hasn't found any similarities between the cause of yesterday's accident and a March 15 collapse that killed seven.

In addition, the city plans to spend $4 million to hire about 20 ``highly specialized engineers'' who will have the authority to change practices on ``high-risk'' jobs involving cranes, concrete pouring and excavation, LiMandri said.

``They will make recommendations as they see fit,'' LiMandri told reporters a block from the Upper East Side site where a crane collapsed, killing two construction workers and seriously injuring a third. ``Once that goes into effect, we will not wait for a report.''

The engineers are part of a $9.3 million program budgeted for the department that will pay for 63 new engineers and inspectors. The plan was adopted after the March 15 accident, at 303 East 51st St., the site of numerous prior complaints from neighbors.

In the past eight years, New York City has experienced an unprecedented construction boom, with $29 billion of building forecast for 2009, an 83 percent increase from $16.4 billion in 2000, according to the New York Building Congress, an association of developers, architects and vendors.
Donald Trump chimes in at ABC News for '20/20' interview (5/30/08) :
"I'm one of the biggest builders in the world, and I tell you I hate to walk under construction sites," Trump said. "You can be safe, you can do everything you can do, but construction is a very complex and dangerous business."

New York's trendy SoHo district is the home of one of Trump's current hotel construction sites, which received one of New York City's 128 crane safety violations this year. "We built a series of many, many buildings from 72nd Street all the way down the Hudson River, and we never had a problem, and yet we did have one problem in SoHo," Trump said. "I've got a great track record, one of the best, but it's a dangerous business."
"I'm doing buildings elsewhere, and many cranes are being shipped over to other parts of the world," Trump said, noting that he is also working on a new building in Dubai. "So I'm not sure if New York City is getting the best cranes, but to have a crane topple the way it did in New York City is an amazing thing."
"They are big, they are strong, they are powerful, they can lift tremendous payloads, and they are dangerous," said Trump. "If a crane is an inch off, it gets dangerous. And you know you're talking about a crane that can go up 60 stories."
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This time the crane maintenance is being questioned, according to speculation by Gordon Gibb at Lawyers and Settlements:
The crane, one of dozens in New York City that have been pressed into service during the current building boom in the bustling metropolis, was erected April 20th and 21st. It has been reported that city inspectors shut the crane down on two separate occasions for safety reasons, however those problems were believed to have been unrelated to the accident yesterday.

Rather, the focus is turning to a metal plate that resides at the base of the turntable underneath the cab. On May 16th 2007—just over a year prior to the fateful accident yesterday—a worker discovered a crack in the metal plate of that same crane, which at the time was being used to put up a building at 46th Street in New York. Work was promptly halted until the turntable could be replaced.

Investigators are now trying to determine just what became of that broken turntable from last year. Could it have been repaired, and put back into service? That's the million-dollar question being asked right now.
I had to wait until today to get this story out, I was a few blocks away when this happened, many of my co-workers went over to the site and the story was constantly changing, even when I got home. It gives you such a terrible feeling when you hear this type of news at work. You know it could be a good friend or a casual acquaintance. You know it could be you. I just couldn't write about this yesterday.

Inspectors from DC, Hawaii and Boston have noticed and pledged reinspections of tower cranes. according to KGMB9, Hawaii:
"One of the things we decided when we got in this morning after we heard the news is let’s send our inspectors out and let's inspect all the tower cranes," said James Hardway, Hawaii Department of Labor.

"Hawaii is one of a handful of states that requires an extensive certification of operators," said Hardway.

Construction cranes in Hawaii are usually rented from one company and set up by another. There are fewer than a dozen companies in the country that are capable of the job. The main company used in Hawaii is Northwest Tower Crane Service.

"There is an inherent risk. It's listed as one of the riskiest jobs in the United States," said Tammy Hardy, Northwest Tower Crane Service Inc.
As for what caused the New York crane to fall, there is plenty of speculation.

"Probably shoddy oversight by the government regulators," said Hardway.

Which Hawaii is working hard to never let happen here.
While they scramble, they neglect the need for more drastic changes

Whatever the case, there definitely needs to be some drastic overhauls, I call 311 reporting sites with major violations, I have seen stuff being raised over pedestrians heads on some sites, smaller sites, nonunion sites, without basic safety necessities, and have offered to send the pictures from my phone to the DOB and they do not have the technology? That is unacceptable!

Only through acts of God have more people not been killed in New York recently. I was watching a (safety shed) scaffold being erected in midtown New York with steel I-Beams being lifted directly over pedestrians and called and waited and no one showed within the hour I waited. Imminent death to the public and it continues every single day in New York. The entire reregulating of the DOB only adds buildings over 10 stories to their scope of hard lined oversight. Meanwhile you have undocumented workers throwing asbestos into the streets of NYC in full public view and nothing is done.

Michelle Malkin puts construction safety in a nutshell, from here story "Another deadly crane collapse"

Top story right now on all the cable news stations: another deadly crane collapse in NYC that reportedly has claimed two lives. (Update: 1 dead, two seriously injured.) The NYPost has extensive coverage. NY’s Fox 5 is livestreaming. The accident is the second in 2 1/2 months in NY and comes on the heels of crane regulation revisions by the city just this week. Miami-Dade County is in the middle of heated debate and litigation over post-accident rules. Maryland, Washington, and Indiana are also drafting tighter regs.

It would be helpful for journalists to report what the background rates on crane-related deaths and injuries are. Also, the coverage should distinguish between types of accidents (human error, mechanical failure, etc.). Here’s one report on offshore crane safety that covers 1995-98. Here’s an ABC report with a little more info on stats and causes, among which they mention illegal alien labor and corporate short cuts:

At least 43 people died while working construction in New York in 2006, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, up 87 percent from the year before when 23 people died.

Across the United States, construction ranks as the most dangerous industry, representing about 20 percent of all work-related fatalities, according to federal statistics.

Deaths rose from 1,131 in 2003 to 1,226 in 2006. By comparison, 836 workers died in mining accidents last year, and 447 died in manufacturing. The government reports between six and seven construction deaths per 1,000 workers.

Nationwide, deaths from falling off scaffolding remained steady at about 88 per year…

…The rise in construction fatalities can be explained by a deadly mix of untrained immigrant workers, lax attention to safety regulations and profit-minded contractors who cut corners in all areas from labor to materials.

“There is a tremendous pressure, particularly in construction, to put pressure on workers to be productive and to take short cuts,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Fines for employers who violate regulations are low — averaging only about $1,600 an incident, according to Shufro. When a worker is killed, the maximum punishment is six months in jail.

“Fines for harassing a burro on federal land are greater,” he said. “But they do the best they can with limited resources.”

Bovis Lend Lease, the company that is handling the Trump project, released a statement to the Associated Press saying they would launch an investigation of the worker’s death.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased concrete worker, and our prayers are with the injured workers,” said Mary Costello, company spokesman.

What is most startling in these accidents is the disproportionate number of immigrant deaths — and not only in New York, where illegal workers make up 86 percent of all fatalities.

While urban areas are facing a building boom, more rural areas are feeling the effects of a slowing economy, according to construction experts. Unions and employers say they face increased competition from those who hire cheap, illegal immigrants.

Here’s another round-up of links to recent crane regulation moves.

Competing with unregulated, bad contractors, using poorly crafted equipment

The constant pressures of competing with contractors who use undocumented workers is devastating the conditions on all construction sites, everyone is in a frenzy to get the lowest bid against these unscrupulous contractors and to keep themselves employed. Be it cutting corners or rushing to complete a job, the atmosphere is there. There also should be a push to use USA and other highly qualified countries materials and tools on the job sites. Shit, if the dog food ingredients and toys from China contain poison, why is it acceptable to use rigging equipment and steel from that region? A lot of Chinese equipment such as 'shackles' and wire slings do not even have a company name on them. It's up to the rigger to refuse to use them. Thats a terrible burden to put on the worker, who will then be "labeled" a trouble maker and risk losing his job. It should be against the law to use them. Many times we have had "Jet" equipment, such as furniture dollies fail with under weighted loads. The rigging equipment needs to be stringently regulated, especially if it is being used overhead. The 'sweatshop construction' practice needs to be eliminated all together. According to a piece featured here at Joe's Union Review from Al Jazeera news:
According to New York Construction Workers United, about 64 per cent of the city's 250,000 construction workers are immigrants who do the vast majority of non-union work.

Basic security equipment like harnesses and – in Juan's case - hard hats are often lacking from job sites.

Those who do receive safety equipment are often forced to pay for it themselves. Many are afraid to complain because they do not want to be blacklisted or risk being deported if they are illegal.
End the 'sweatshop construction' and the city and the United States will be a much safer place.
Currently we have a large percentage of contractors (aprox. 1/4 of all current construction in NY has employees that work off the books or are misclassified as independent contractors) here who pay their undocumented employees below the minimum wage and misclassifying them as independent contractors. Entitling them to let the "employee' bear the burden of making sure his taxes are being payed, workers comp insurance is in place, supply their own safety equipment and working conditions.

Currently our Building and Construction Unions, local politicians from a bipartisan background and a host of other agencies, like the Brennan center for Justice and the Fiscal Policy Institute have been bringing to light the reckless behavior of these unscrupulous contractors, their safety violations, their shotty and dangerous work, their unskilled workers, the slave wages (according to the Brennan report some are forced to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for $6-$12 an hour), the public safety concern, the nonpayment by employer of taxes for said employees(in fact 2 construction companies are facing jail time(NY Newsday reported one for $220,000 and another $394,788 in evading employee taxes), The Governor himself has declared an Executive order to end this misclassification of workers, this doesn't even mention the tax burden these contractors push off onto the general public and those contractors who(according to Fiscal Policy Institute) cost workers lost wages and benefits and local, state and federal governments nearly $500 million in 2005.
When one of these 50,000+ workers gets sick and winds up in the hospital who do you think winds up paying for that? We do.Who winds up paying for their kids schooling, the upkeep of our infrastructure, our public employees wages? the list goes on. What is the cost to us for the lowest bid?
So I say if the Department Of Buildings, Bloomberg and any Governmental entity really wants to make anything better and safer here in New York they should not wait until the next crane travesty, they should not focus on the 'giant accidents', they should work from the bottom up. Remember these contractors who go into business never do it to get smaller. These are the huge contractors of the future and they seem to get a free pass on everything.

There is one reason to be working, to go home in one piece at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, 2 construction workers here in New York will not have that opportunity. From the crane operator who was going to get married in 2 weeks, to the immigrant from Kosovo who was working on the sewer lines in the street, to the carpenter who was working in the stairs who is still in serious condition, to the fourth victim who I haven't read anything about, it is a terrible day indeed.

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