Construction is constantly taking place in New York City—in every part of town and during every season. The City That Never Sleeps is also the city that never stops building. Because of New York’s multi-story buildings, high-rises, and skyscrapers, cranes are a major fixture on many local construction sites. There are several different types of cranes, each with different uses, and some can weigh up to 4,000 tons. Imagine what damage a 4,000-ton piece of machinery could do falling from great heights. And let’s not forget what would happen to residents of nearby buildings, construction workers, and pedestrians down below.
Sadly, crane collapses are not unheard of in New York City. Neither are other crane-related accidents, like workers falling from cranes, cranes tipping over, and cranes dropping their loads. One of New York’s most tragic crane accidents occurred in March 2008, when a crane collapsed in Midtown East and killed seven people and seriously injured 24 others. Just two months later, tragedy struck again when a crane on the Upper East Side collapsed and killed two people.
These two deadly crane collapses occurring in such a short timespan prompted then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to call these accidents “unacceptable and intolerable.”
Unfortunately, crane collapses continue to occur. After a 2016 crane collapse that killed one person and injured three others, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a series of new safety policies that included:
- Weather restrictions for crawler cranes. If the weather forecast for the day calls for steady winds that will exceed 20 mph or gusts that exceed 30 mph, crawler cranes are not permitted to operate and must go into safety mode. (Crawler cranes are mobile cranes with a lattice or telescopic boom.)
- More pedestrian access restrictions. In areas where cranes are operating, there should be an increased effort to restrict pedestrian access to nearby sidewalks and streets.
- Increased notification for residents and businesses. The new safety policies require operators to notify all who live and work in the area when a crane is being moved. In the past, nearby residents and businesses were only notified when a crane was first installed.
- The Crane Safety Task Force. The City formed a task force to review and analyze crane accidents, and to develop further policies and recommendations to improve crane safety.
WHAT NEW YORK LAW HAS TO SAY ABOUT WORKER SAFETY
Construction in New York City must also abide by NY’s Consolidated Labor Laws, which in section 240 (1) talk about the responsibilities of contractors, owners, and their agents when it comes to protecting workers.
The contractor or owner “…shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys,
braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.” Cranes fall under this umbrella of what is commonly called “Scaffold Law.”
COMMON CAUSES OF CRANE COLLAPSES
According to studies conducted by OSHA and other construction safety organizations, common causes of crane collapses include:
- Exceeding manufacturer’s specifications or operating a crane outside of its intended use. This could include overloading a crane or overextending a crane’s boom.
- Hazardous weather conditions, such as high winds.
- Operator error.
- Design and manufacturing flaws.
- Improper assembly.
- Contact with power lines, buildings, or other cranes.
- Lack of, or improper, training.
- Lack of, or flawed, inspections.
WHO CAN BE HELD LIABLE FOR A CRANE COLLAPSE?
Because the manufacture, assembly, operation, and disassembly of a crane involves many people and companies, a number of parties may be held liable for a crane collapse, depending on what caused the accident. These parties can include:
- The designer and manufacturer of the crane.
- The designer and manufacturer of a part of the crane.
- The company that assembled, operated, moved, and disassembled the crane.
- The crane’s operator.
- The City, if the inspection was lax or flawed, or if the building permit was granted in error.
The Case Handler team of accident attorneys and legal staff at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP urge all New York City workers, residents, and visitors to practice caution whenever you’re in the vicinity of a crane. But if you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a crane-related accident, you are likely entitled to compensation from the liable party, and should call our offices for a free consultation at 929-223-4195. We don’t take any fees until we get compensation for you.