By the end of June, three U.S. cities plan to begin tracking tower cranes working on construction sites, and public officials there hope to expand the list to improve safety on a national level.
“Sharing this information can save lives,” says Robert LiMandri, commissioner of New York City’s Dept. of Buildings, which has volunteered to maintain a list of cranes operating in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia. All have agreed to share data. “If there is an issue with a particular tower crane, model, make or practice that is going on, we want to know about it,” adds Tony Sclafani, a DOB spokesman.
The list, gathered from permits, will track the number of active tower cranes, location, crane owner, make, model, model year, maximum planned height, serial number and dates of erection and dismantling. Data will be updated every three months on a confidential spreadsheet that DOB will give the cities.
No database yet exists for what some call a “CarFax” for cranes, referring to the service for used-car buyers. Though less transparent, the program is part of New York City’s $4-million safety study launched last summer with a subsidiary of Skokie, Ill.-based forensic consultant CTL Group. At top of a list of 41 recommendations was creation of a database of “critical crane parts”. Since that recommendation was released earlier this year, the idea has drawn mixed reviews across the industry, which LiMandri argues needs more regulation in the wake of crane accidents. “This new pact is a major step toward establishing a standardized system of tracking tower cranes across the country,” he says.
Some argue the list may not improve safety. “Having such data would only be of litigious help after the fact,” remarks Terry McGettigan, a San Diego-based crane technician. “It does nothing meaningful in the way of accident prevention.” Some also criticize the list for being too narrowly focused, unable to track recalls and not readily available to the public. “Right now, the program is in its infancy stages,” Sclafani says, adding that the data may be made available through freedom-of-information requests.