NY Buildings Department Head Announces New Tower Crane Measures

New York City Department of Buildings Acting Buildings Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri yesterday announced a series of changes regarding tower crane safety during testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Educational and Labor Committee in Washington D.C. The changes are designed to strengthen maintenance and inspection requirements to advance safety in and around construction sites with tower cranes, he said.

Among the changes are new requirements that will establish a history of maintenance and major repairs to critical crane components, which will allow the Buildings Department and responsible parties to easily identify and track risks not readily apparent during visual inspections. In addition, the department is expanding the role of the private crane safety coordinator, who will be required to oversee the details of tower crane operations to ensure the required safety and maintenance inspections have been properly completed and recorded. The changes are built on recommendations made during an emergency safety summit following the May 30th crane collapse.

"Continuous maintenance records, consistent labeling for critical crane components, certification that crane parts are in safe operable condition--these tracking systems must be put in place to make tower cranes safer. These changes are a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done," LiMandri said. "We will continue to take action as we identify ways for the city and the industry to make cranes safer."

Following the March 15th crane collapse, the Buildings Department launched a full operational overhaul of the Cranes & Derricks Unit, and that process identified a need for a modernized tracking system for tower cranes, their parts, and their maintenance records. The changes announced yesterday are designed to enhance the city's oversight by mandating additional maintenance inspections, better record keeping, and tracking of tower cranes and their parts. The changes come as the Buildings Department is in the midst of conducting a $4 million analysis of high-risk construction activities, including crane operations, to develop a Construction Analysis and Oversight Plan, LiMandri said.

The changes outlined include requiring disclosure of the crane's condition each time a tower crane is transferred from one party to another--whether owner to equipment user, equipment user to owner, or equipment user to equipment user. A safety meeting must now be held to review and document maintenance records and service history. Additionally, the owner will be required to certify in writing that the crane's structural and operating condition meets the manufacturer's guidelines or national standards. The department also is mandating labeling requirements using a universal system it is developing of labeling each structural component of cranes in order to track them throughout their lifetime, and imposing additional requirements for testing, as well as new filing and permitting requirements.

Other changes include increasing tower crane maintenance and crane history record requirements and expanding the role of the Crane Safety Coordinator. While current Buildings Department forms require the designation of a Crane Safety Coordinator, the coordinator's obligations are not specified. Through rule making, the department will require the coordinator to be the operator's designated representative to both document that all required safety and maintenance checks have been made and that safety rules are followed in the erection, operation, and dismantling of the crane. Finally, LiMandri said the department will recommend that the proposed changes made by the OSHA council on cranes--known as C-DAC--to the existing OSHA regulations be adopted.

LiMandri said all of these changes will be implemented in phases, and over the coming months, the Buildings Department will be working to draft regulatory notices and rules to mandate the changes. The department will seek further changes to make cranes safer as the Construction Analysis and Oversight Plan continues, he said. Meanwhile, he said the department encourages New Yorkers to call 3-1-1 to report non-compliant conditions or 9-1-1 to report emergencies at construction sites.

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