Contractors in New York City are calling for a review of new crane-safety regulations that they claim are overly stringent in imposing a single wind-speed limit regardless of the equipment design.
Following the crane accident in lower Manhattan on Feb. 5, which killed a pedestrian, New York City implemented new safety standards under which crawler cranes must stop work at 20 miles per hour or gusts of 30 miles per hour, down from the previous standard of 30 miles per hour or gusts of 40 miles per hour.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new safety regulations that took effect Feb. 8, with the implication that the new rules are temporary pending further investigation.
Now that several weeks have passed since the fatal accident, contractors say the new measures are costly and impractical for the future.
“The 20 miles-per-hour 'one size fits all' is not appropriate for all crawler cranes in use in NYC,” explains William Shuzman, executive director of the Allied Building Metal Industries Inc. “Every crawler crane manufacturer sets forth its specs for use of the crane in wind conditions. They spend enormous sums of money on the engineering studies needed to develop these standards.”
Shuzman added that the regulations have caused financial difficulties in the industry.
“The city's knee-jerk reaction has resulted in the unnecessary shutting down of cranes when it is perfectly safe to use them," says Shuzman. "This has resulted in many workers being laid off and construction companies suffering substantial financial losses."
Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, calls the initial reaction following the accident “appropriate,” but agrees a change is due.
“In the short run we understand it,” says Coletti. “But it’s now time to allow us to go back to work.”
Coletti estimated that over 200 days of work were completed last year in the conditions now prohibited by the city.
Mayor de Blasio and Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler announced in late February that a technical working group has been assembled to review the city’s policies regarding crane safety.
While the most recent accident’s cause is still being investigated, it added to anxiety about safety during the current building boom in New York City. Prior crane accidents, including two tower crane collapses in 2008 that included fatalities, had led to other safety regulations being imposed.