Industry faults proposed federal crane changes

By Adam Pincus | July 02, 2008 02:04PM

New York City’s recent deadly crane accidents have increased pressure on the U.S. government to tighten construction standards, and a local industry trade group has voiced its opposition to proposals for national accreditation for crane operators and assemblers.

Louis Coletti, CEO of the Building Trades Employer’s Association, which represents unionized construction firms in the city, said his group opposes a national accreditation system for crane operators and workers who assemble or dismantle crane, known as riggers.

Such national certification tests are included in a proposal developed back in 2004 through the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Crane and Derrick Advisory Committee.

Coletti said the variety of construction conditions throughout the country made any attempt at national standards useless.
“There is a different skill set for different jurisdictions,” he said. “Lifting a crane in Kansas is different than in New York City.”

Coletti said his group does support stricter local standards, national standards for crane inspectors and an increase in the reporting of crane data.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents the two East Side neighborhoods where the two cranes collapses killed a total of 9 people, said OSHA regulators need to act quickly and update regulations that have not been revised since they were first adopted in 1971.

“OSHA needs to do its job and issue updated crane safety standards before anyone else gets hurt,” she said in an emailed statement. “People who live near construction sites should not have to look at every tall crane in fear and workers should not have to risk their lives to do a job.”

Department of Buildings acting commissioner Robert LiMandri, federal officials and construction industry leaders testified at a congressional hearing last week on construction worker safety.

Meanwhile, the city’s first update of its construction code formally took effect yesterday. The new code, written last year and revised in March, is meant to focus the Buildings Department’s enforcement on sites that “pose the most serious safety hazards to construction workers and the public,” the Bloomberg administration said in a statement. New requirements toughened standards for fire protection, structural integrity and work-site accountability.