Crane experts are watching William Rapetti’s trial closely. Many believe that regardless of the outcome, more stringent safety and certification codes for crane operations are on the way.

“A catastrophic loss like this is always a shot heard around the world,” says Edward Shapiro, president of Heavy Equipment Services Co., Niantic, Conn., referring to the industry’s response to the 200-ft tower-crane collapse on March 15, 2008. “It’s too bad it takes a catastrophic loss to focus in on [safety] issues.”

After a crane plummeted 16 stories in San Francisco’s financial district in 1989, California become the first state to require rigger certification. Washington state enacted its own crane safety regulations after a 210-ft crane crashed into a Bellevue apartment in 2006, killing a man and wrecking a home-office complex.

Now, with the 2008 Manhattan accident, experts foresee more significant and far-reaching changes to come. Graham Brent, executive director of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, says the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will lay out specific training and certification requirements for riggers and signalers later this month. “Employers will have a year to come into compliance,” he adds. OSHA representatives did not return calls for comment.

Shapiro says increasing safety isn’t a matter of creating more regulations. “There are enough OSHA codes on the books. We keep refining them, instead of enforcing them. If we enforced them, we’d be fine.”