If it has felt like there has been a major construction crane accident in New York City every year for the past few years, then that is because it is a trend that does not seem to want to stop. There are a number of crane accidents reported every year, and these accidents have brought construction safety into the spotlight in New York City.
Man Killed In A Brooklyn Crane Accident
Some accidents are the result of careless crane operation. In 2016, a construction worker was killed when a crane on the Brooklyn construction site he was working at struck him in the head and knocked him to the ground. Operator error accounts for many of the crane accidents in New York City, and these types of accidents can be avoided.
New York City has responded to the more tragic crane accidents with changes to the safety laws, but cranes still fall and cause accidents every year. Both the construction industry and the city government are concerned for pedestrian safety as there have been accidents involving non-construction personnel. Why are there so many crane accidents, and what can be done to stop them?
Three Reasons Behind Crane Collapses In New York
A Crane Falls In Queens Due To Unsecured Loads
In November 2016, a crane accident took the lives of the crane operator and the flagman working the traffic below the beam that was being hoisted. The beam became unstable in its rigging and fell to the ground, killing the flagman. The tension on the crane itself discharged when the beam fell and the whole crane collapsed on the cab and killed the operator.
This tragic accident gives an example of one of the main causes of crane accidents throughout the country; improperly secured loads. Some of these cranes lift heavy materials hundreds of feet in the air, and disaster will strike when the rigging that holds that material in place fails. Better training for the workers who secure crane loads can help to solve this problem, but this is not the only reason cranes collapse.
The Weather As The Enemy
In 2008, seven people died in New York City and buildings were damaged when a 200-foot crane toppled to the ground. In February 2016, a crane blew over in the strong Manhattan winter winds and collapsed onto a pedestrian. The February 2016 incident inspired New York City to enforce strict crane operation laws that were already on the books, but hardly ever utilized. But even with rules in place, two workers died in Queens in November 2016.
The weather, especially in New York City, can have a significantly damaging effect on construction safety, and it can become a primary cause of any crane accident. The wind in New York during the winter is bad enough, but when it picks up speed in the narrow confines of the streets of New York, it can put pedestrian safety in danger. Winds that start out at 10 to 15 MPH, could be accelerated to 20 or 30 MPH when they are compressed between the buildings that line New York City streets.
Winter is especially difficult for crane operators in New York because ice and snow add weight to an already delicately balanced piece of equipment. Ice can also cause rigging to fail, which can create a serious problem for people on the ground. The only way to protect against the weather is to make safety laws that force contractors to take special precautions, but even that is not enough to stop crane accidents.
The Same Offenders Accelerating The Problem
Another reason cranes collapse has to do with construction companies and operators who are not careful when operating their equipment. Newer cranes operate much differently than the cranes of the 1990s, yet many operators are not trained on how to properly use the new cranes to increase safety.
Then there are the construction companies that continually put workers and pedestrians in harm’s way. In May 2008, crane owner James Lomma watched as his crane collapsed on the Upper East Side and killed two workers. Lomma was indicted for not properly repairing his crane after it was struck by lightning prior to the accident, but he was acquitted. In 2013, another Lomma crane collapsed and injured three workers and four pedestrians.
Crane accidents seem to be a way of life in New York City, which can expect more accidents as the volume of construction work increases. To many construction industry experts, most crane accidents can be prevented by properly training operators, abiding by safety laws, and using common sense in bad weather. But as long as there are people in the New York City construction world who want to cut corners on construction safety, there will always be crane accidents to be concerned about.