Washington state lawmakers are weighing a bill to require crane operator certification and tighter inspection standards. If passed, the law would rank among the toughest in the U.S.
Boeing Co. and Weyerhaeuser Co. object to the bill. “They didn’t want their rigs to be included in the legislation,” says Alan Darr, operating engineers Local 302 business manager. “But this is for construction only, so some industrial uses are exempt.”
The American Society of Safety Engineers also has objections. It is urging lawmakers to wait for new U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, expected to go into force next year.
The state bill does not include an enactment date. It calls for third-party inspection for all construction cranes before and after assembly, as well as inspection of nonstandard crane bases. The state’s Dept. of Labor and Industries will keep records and a list of qualified inspectors. The bill also calls for operator certification based on crane type and recertification every five years. To date, California is the only state to require operator certification and third-party inspection.
The bill was prompted by Seattle-area crane incidents in November, following a period of record-high winds and low temperatures. Two Bellevue incidents still are under investigation. In one, a 210-ft crane collapsed, killing one man, damaging three buildings and displacing dozens of residents. Two weeks later, another tower crane was dismantled because of cracks in its steel legs, thought to have been caused by trapped water that froze. In following weeks, structural problems were found in two more western Washington cranes. And on a fifth, rigging, swinging in the wind, damaged a skyscraper in downtown Seattle.
“We want this bill enacted to restore the general public’s faith in cranes after the accident in Bellevue and to protect people on construction sites,” says Darr.