NYC buildings department says operator errors caused February crane collapse in Tribeca

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The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has released the results of its investigation of February’s crane collapse in Tribeca.

DOB investigators found that a series of errors by the crane operator caused the collapse; chiefly, that the operator failed to secure the crane the night before the accident and that he lowered the main boom of the crane at an improper angle the morning of February 5th, causing the crane to become unstable and topple over.

The early collapse killed one person and seriously injured two others. The construction crane, owned by Bay Crane and operated by Galasso Trucking and Rigging, was previously positioned as high as 20 stories.

See agency’s report here.

DOB said in a December news release that it has suspended the crane operator’s license and filed a case against him to revoke his license permanently. Due to these actions, the crane operator is no longer allowed to operate cranes in New York City.

“Our actions following this tragedy have made New Yorkers safer,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a Dec. 9 statement. “Today’s report furthers this effort and will help shape new legislation to prevent future crane accidents. I thank everyone who worked so hard to get us to this point, including the Crane Safety Technical Working Group, our partners in the City Council, industry experts, and the Department of Buildings. The city is safer because of their work.”

“Crane operations have very high stakes, particularly in New York City — and the operators of these huge machines must be held to the highest standards. The crane operator involved in this incident acted recklessly, with tragic results. The actions we’re taking should send the message to everyone in the construction industry that safety must come first. I’d like to thank the investigators at DOB and DOI whose teamwork led to these disciplinary actions,” said Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler.

DOB also announced that the agency will work with the City Council on legislation to improve crane safety. This includes legislation to allow the agency to have more stringent licensing requirements for operators of large cranes, and to require the registration of lift directors who must be on site at all times during crane operations.

“This tragedy compelled us to look broadly at how we can improve crane safety in our city. A lift director overseeing crane operations may very well have prevented this collapse, so we look forward to working with the City Council to require lift directors to be registered with us. It’s also clear that some crane operations have too little margin for error – which is why we banned from city streets cranes like the one that collapsed in February,” Commissioner Chandler added.

DOB’s investigators broadly concurred with the conclusions of a separate investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which also found that the collapse was caused by operator error. However, the DOB investigation considered and ruled out additional potential causes of the accident.

“We need the highest safety standards and the strictest enforcement because this is New York — packed, bustling, with constant construction and no margin for error,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I thank the Dept. of Buildings for pursuing its investigation and corrective actions, and hope pedestrians and construction site workers alike will be safer thanks to these steps.”

In addition, DOB announced that following the release of the investigation report on February’s crane collapse, the Crane Safety Technical Working Group, appointed by Mayor de Blasio following the accident, has completed its work. In June, the Technical Working Group released 23 recommendations to improve crane safety in the city, which DOB is currently implementing. The Technical Working Group has concluded that no additional recommendations are needed at this time.

“I’m deeply grateful to the Working Group for offering their time and expertise to make our city safer. The Group’s forward-looking recommendations will make New York’s crane regulations, already the strongest in the country, even more effective,” said Commissioner Chandler.

Summary of forthcoming DOB actions on crane safety

DOB intends to submit for City Council consideration a variety of legislative proposals, including:

  • Requiring registration of Lift Directors for all large cranes: would establish a registration structure that goes above and beyond current requirements.
  • Mandate that lift directors be registered by DOB, and impose training and certification requirements on lift directors.
  • More stringent licensing requirements.
  • Allows DOB to create new licensing standards for operators of particularly large, complex cranes.

Through the agency’s rulemaking process, DOB will propose rules to further clarify existing crane safety requirements, including:

  • Cranes to be inspected after every shift to verify they have been properly secured.
  • Anemometers (devices that measure wind speeds) on most cranes.
  • Professional engineer to develop a plan specifying the sequence to lower a crane; this plan must be kept in a crane’s cab and followed by the operator.

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