As the Manhattan district attorney opened an investigation into last week’s tower crane collapse in Manhattan, in which two workers died, a leader of the city’s construction industry may have provided a hint that employers are ready for changes.
In late April, Louis J. Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, talked about the new safety rules and the delays and work stoppages since the city stepped up its inspections following a tower crane disaster that killed seven people in March.
“There’s a natural response to err on the side of safety,” Coletti told the New York Times. “But there comes a point where you have to analyze the facts. The unionized high-rise construction industry in New York City has the best safety record in the world.”
That may be true, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first comments on hearing of the newest tower crane disaster on Friday were that worries about delays and extra costs would only come after safer work was assured.
The city’s Buildings Department held meetings with industry leaders Saturday. Afterwards, Coletti told a reporter, “It’s clear that the city and the industry see this as a shared tragedy and want to do everything they can to regain the confidence of the people of New York City and assure them that they are safe.”
Coletti could not be reached for comment about the aftermath of the latest crane accident.
Local prosecutors have in the past pursued owners of scaffold companies and contractors involved in other accidents, notes a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau. Exactly what charges the newest crane accident would involve “is too early to say,” she says.
Other cities are known to be re-examining their own crane safety and inspection procedures. The District of Columbia is preparing to take another look at its tower cranes. Other cities feel that they already do enough. Citing the frequency and thoroughness of inspections, a Chicago official says that the city is not changing its crane regulations in light of the second tower-crane collapse in New York in three months.
Tower cranes are inspected once a week, says Bill McCaffrey, spokesman for the city’s Dept. of Buildings. Chicago’s most visible cranes atop the Trump International Hotel & Tower are inspected daily. “We check everything from top to bottom,” he adds.
The pace of crane accidents in 2008 is believed to be double that of 2007. One of the latest occurred May 31st at the CityCenter project in Las Vegas — the sixth fatality on that job since ground was broken in June, 2006. A crane oiler on a hammerhead tower crane was crushed to death by the counterweight system, says a spokesman for the Clark County, Nev., fire department.