After the city suffered its first crane collapse in March, politicians citywide leapt into action, calling for tougher standards at the Department of Buildings, a place so many of them seem to love to hate. The City Council took the hardest line, proposing more than a dozen pieces of legislation that have only gained further support following a second crane accident in May.
Though not the first package of legislation to come out of this new climate of concern, three bills the City Council passed unanimously today are the first that deal explicitly with crane safety and management. The bills call for increased training for crane erectors and operators, enhanced communication and coordination between construction workers and the department regarding crane operations, and a reduction in the use of nylon slings during erection and jumping.
Despite the best efforts of the Bloomberg administration over the previous six years to reform what many considered one of the city’s most dysfunctional agencies, problems persisted in the face of a building boom unrivaled in the last half-century. It finally took an unshakeable catastrophe—or several in this case—for a serious reevaluation of the department to begin. The council now hopes things are headed in the right direction.
“This year, we have seen far too many New Yorkers placed in harm’s way and far too much loss of life because of accidents on construction sites,” Erik Martin-Dilan, chair of the council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, said in a release. “While our work and commitment to construction safety will always continue, today’s legislation is yet another important step in ensuring that those working on our construction sites are armed with and held to the highest of safety standards.”
The most significant bill [text] heightens coordination between the department and construction workers. It requires the project engineer to submit a detailed plan for operations whenever the cranes are erected, jumped, climbed, or dismantled. The plan is to be submitted to the department for certification, and the department is also to be notified whenever these actions are to take place so an inspector can be present to oversee the process. The bill also calls for a safety meeting before the jump involving all workers and officials involved in the jumping.
A second piece of legislation [text] sets out additional training standards and qualifications for crane operators and riggers. Workers must complete a 30-hour training program approved by the department, as well as an eight-hour refresher course every three years. The final bill [text] limits the use of nylon slings—the suspected cause of the first crane collapse—during jumping procedures only to instances when the crane’s operating manual explicitly calls for their use. In those instances, any potentially sharp edges are to be “softened” as a precaution.
The new laws may not actually have a major effect on operations in the field because they borrow much of their language from two regulatory notices [PDF] released by the department earlier this year in response to the crane accidents. The bills merely codify these regulatory measures into city law, altering the administrative code to reflect the new changes.
The council has promised to continue its work to ensure a safer construction industry and a more vigilant Department of Buildings, though some still feel it could do more. Council member Tony Avella, a frequent critic of the department, said additional measures, particularly those targeted at developers and not only construction companies, would go a long way in curtailing hasty and unsafe practices.
“Am I going to vote for this bill? Of course,” Avella told AN prior to the full council’s vote. “Anything is better than what we’ve got, but it’s not enough.” He may not have known at the time, but news was just beginning to spread of another construction fatality this morning, when a worker fell 47 stories to his death. Though a crane was not involved, the accident spoke volumes about the city’s still perilous construction sites.