New York Expands Oversight of Tower Cranes

 

New York Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster announced interim changes to the department's inspection protocol regarding tower cranes, the type of crane involved in the deadly March 15 incident on East 51st Street where a 19-story crane collapsed and smashed into a townhouse. These changes are being made as a precautionary measure as the department conducts its inspection sweep of tower cranes, assesses existing safety practices on crane sites, and continues its forensic investigation into the cause of the collapse of the tower crane.

Until further notice, a Buildings Department inspector must be present on a construction site whenever a tower crane is raised or lowered in New York City, to ensure safe practices are being employed by those operating the crane, the department says. In a regulatory notice issued to the construction industry March 25, Lancaster outlined this and other measures, including a requirement for engineers who design cranes to inspect the cranes before they are raised or lowered. These changes come as the department continues its inspection sweep of approximately 30 tower cranes in New York City, which the department says will be complete by April 15.

"Tower cranes are highly engineered structures that present unique challenges both to the operator and workers using them," Lancaster said. "While the tragic accident on March 15 was a rare occurrence, we are expanding oversight of cranes as a precautionary measure while we await the findings of our forensic investigation. Starting today I have ordered changes to the inspection protocol for tower cranes that will be in effect until further notice. Any crane operating in an unsafe manner will be shut down immediately."

Since the March 15 tower crane collapse, the Buildings Department has not approved any permits for jumping operations. Additional changes in procedures may be made after the department's forensic investigation of the collapse, which includes a review of materials used during the raising or lowering of a crane's mast--a process known as "jumping" the crane. At the conclusion of the safety sweep of tower cranes, the department will focus on the other approximately 220 cranes in operation in New York City. The inspections of these cranes should be complete by the end of May, Lancaster said.

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