Posted by: kaegw | June 1, 2008

Why are the cranes falling in NYC?

Have you ever been involved in a crane accident? It’s brutal. I’ve had two crane collapses on my jobsites. In the first, we had a little 50 ton hydraulic crane with a young operator. He just miscalculated the load and laid it down, fortunately with no injuries.

On the Hershey PA High School project, though, the steel erector’s crane had the main cable snap. Joe DiFava, a friend of mine who pays incredible attention to his environment, saw the boom falling towards him and shoved a co-worker out of the way, probably saving his life. The end of the boom just hit Joe’s hardhat, shooting him out of the way like a watermellon seed. The fellow who got shoved out of the way had the end of the boom land on his boot, losing several toes.

As you’ve probably read, another crane fell in NYC, with the boom and cab crashing into an apartment building below. This was the second crane collapse in three months, killing two construction workers. Now 26 construction workers have died on jobsites in NYC in the past year. The mayor responded by hiring 20 more engineers to inspect all the cranes working in the city. Do you think this was a reasonable response?


  1. I don’t think hiring twenty engineers was a reasonable response, but it was a good political one, unfortunately. It could only make sense if it were immediately apparent that there were city staffing inadequacies which caused the accidents.
    OSHA and other agencies, along with the investors, bankers, insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, suppliers, construction companies and workers involved, will get to the bottom of it. Once that investigation is complete, or near completion, it would make more sense to hire engineers because only then will they know what to look for, or if their services are even required at all.

    Absent a thorough knowledge of the root causes of the incidents, would the engineers be expected to test and check everything imaginable? I can imagine a lot of things to check.

    How about the engineers administering breathalyser and drug testing of construction personnel? Or performing surveys of the job site’s surroundings to monitor the intensity and frequency of worker distractions, such as too many hot looking women walking by. That one would require further testing, I’m sure, wasting the taxpayer’s money.

  2. Construction crane collapse accidents have become almost epidemic, and it’s largely due to inadequate regulations and controls. These aren’t “accidents” in the sense that they just happen. Rather, they are very likely to happen given the poor regulatory system. I’ve written articles on construction crane accidents which might shed some light on this growing problem to construction workers and to general public safety.

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