Friday, April 25, 2008

State (Pennsylvania) Lacks Crane Safety Regulations

State Lacks Crane Safety Regulations
Philadelphia - In the wake of the recent Miami and New York City construction site crane accidents that caused multiple deaths, Pennsylvania still does not require any standard of safety regulations for either cranes or construction sites as a whole.

"Currently, there are no qualifications or tests mandated by the state or by any other municipality," said Anthony Lusi Jr., an assistant training director with the operating engineers Local 542 and a member of the building trades union. "It's an employer-driven ordeal."

Over the span of eight days, slipshod crane operations left nine dead and dozens more injured last month, warranting a closer look at how well safety regulations are followed when erecting a building.

Three states that share borders with Pennsylvania - New York, New Jersey and Maryland - use U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-recommended plans to ensure the highest safety standards are upheld on the work site.

Mr. Lusi, a 32-year veteran with the building trades and a member of the building trades safety committee, said Philadelphia has a "sizable" amount of cranes operating daily in the city.

He said most construction site accidents in the city are never reported.

"The numbers will be skewed," he said.

"It is the employer's responsibility to foresee potential hazards of unsafe positions, and that is the gray area where a lot of the balls are dropped," he said. "I think the cart is pulling the horse if we wait for these accidents to happen and don't taken responsibility and preventative measures."

Currently only construction site accidents resulting in three or more injuries and/or a death are required to go on record with OSHA. Under the OSH Act, an employer must "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment that are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." Beyond that, work site safety regulations here are a crapshoot.

Leni Fortson, spokeswoman for the local labor department, said the Philadelphia OSHA branch and the city are working together to share information.

As to the safety measures taken at work sites, Ms. Fortson said she could not specify, since construction projects are overseen only to the degree the employer pays for it.

"We're looking to see whether the standards that are promulgated under the OSHA health act have been followed. We are constantly keeping and eye on all work sites, since construction is considered one of the more hazardous work sites," Ms. Fortson said.

While Pennsylvania does not opt to abide by the safety guidelines recommended by OSHA, Mr. Lusi said most union workers feel they exhibit "due diligence" in addressing safety on the job.

According to Gayle Johns, spokeswoman for Licenses & Inspection (L&I), the accidents in New York and Miami were related to tower cranes, which are stationary and used to construct, alter or demolish high-rise buildings. She cited three in operation currently - at the Ritz-Carlton Residences at 15th and Chestnut streets, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in West Philadelphia and at the 900 block of N. Penn Street.

"Philadelphia has no local legislation regulating the construction and operation of tower cranes, other than the general requirements in the building code to protect the public and adjacent property from the construction project," Ms. Johns said.

"Our inspectors are nationally certified in the construction codes, but cranes and equipment used to conduct the construction is regulated by OSHA."

If unsafe operations that threaten public safety are in effect at work sites, Ms. Johns said city inspectors will issue stop-work orders until problems are resolved.

L&I could not confirm numbers relating to construction accidents.

Mr. Lusi said he recalled one construction site death in 2006 in Delaware County and three deaths in 2005 in Montgomery County. He said a bill aimed at extending safety measures is stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The legislation, if passed, would make crane operators in the commonwealth more aware of regulations and safety standards that apply to the construction industry.

"The state requires us to be able to operate a vehicle with minimal skill," he said.

Additionally, Mr. Lusi said changes to construction site equipment, including cranes, "changes drastically from year to year," and it is at the employer's discretion to train or educate operators on the latest technology - an option not always chosen because of the financial burden of outsourcing training and testing mechanisms.

The city Office of Risk Management did not return calls for comment as of press time.

Jenny DeHuff can be reached at jdehuff@thebulletin.us.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New York Crane Collapse Kills Seven

April 9, 2008

New York Crane Collapse Kills Seven – and Raises Engineering Questions

Filed under: Safety, Lifting Equipment — admin @ 4:24 pm

A 200-ft-tall construction crane collapsed on New York City’s East Side on Saturday, killing seven people. Hardly a freak accident, this tragedy marks the latest in a slew of crane accidents that have taken place across the country over the past few years. Engineers may wonder whether the fault lies in the design of the cranes themselves. Yet the cause of most crane accidents can usually be found out on the job site.

In this recent fatal accident, a tower crane working on a new 43-story residential building at 303 East 51st Street toppled onto a property across the street. As the crane broke apart during the fall a roughly 75-ft section demolished a building over on 50th street and damaged at least six other nearby buildings.

According to a statement sent by Carly Sullivan, assistant press secretary for the New York City Department of Buildings, a preliminary investigation indicates the accident occurred while workers were adding tower sections to extend the crane upwards, a process known as “jumping” or “jacking.”

“While crews were jumping the crane to the 18th floor, a heavy-duty steel collar, which wrapped around the mast of the crane and used to tie the crane to the side of the building, fell as workers attempted to install it. When the steel collar fell, it damaged a lower steel collar, installed at the 9th floor. The collar installed at the 9th floor served as a major anchor securing the tower crane to the building under construction. With the elimination of the support provided by the steel collar at the 9th floor, the counter-weights at the top of the crane’s tower caused the entire structure to fall southward,” the statement says.

Owned by New York Crane and manufactured by the Favelle Favco Group, the tower crane has been inspected at least five times during its operation at 305 East 51st Street. The most recent inspection of the crane occurred on just a day before the accident when inspectors from the Building Department’s Cranes & Derricks Unit inspected the mast sections that would be used to jump the crane upward. The Building Department issued no violations as a result of that inspection, and a prior inspection earlier this month found the crane had been erected in accordance with the city’s crane permit.

As of yesterday, the Buildings Department engineers were working with the New York City Police Department to recover the crane parts needed for a forensic investigation into the accident. With this evidence destined for lab testing and analysis, it may be some time before the cause of the accident comes to light.

But crane experts say it’s unlikely the the crane will be found to have failed due to any inherent design flaws. “Cranes are designed well by their manufacturers. In all the accidents I’ve investigated over the past 12 years, not one of them was the fault of the crane itself,” says Thomas Barth of Barth Crane Inspections, a firm that provides crane operator training as well as crane inspections and accident investigation services.

“Accidents usually occur when someone does something with the crane that the manufacturer did not intend the crane to do,” Barth says.

Often times that someone can be an operator. Barth argues many operators don’t have nearly enough training or experience to understand how to lift the loads safely and within the design limits of the crane. “Some of them don’t know jack about the cranes they’re operating,” he says.

According to Barth, one particularly common class of problems relates to a lack of awareness about the crane’s maintenance needs. For example, he says he’s seen many crane operators fail to account for wear in the crane cables, which they should do by measuring the cable and applying wear tolerances.

Graham Brent, executive director of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), likewise says the operator error can result in crane mishaps. He says these errors can involve trying to lift loads in ways the crane can’t tolerate. Modern cranes do have load sensors that in theory would prevent too heavy a load from being lifted. “But controls can be bypassed,” says Brent. “And sometimes a load that’s safe to lift in one quadrant of the crane’s operating envelope could be unsafe in another,” he says.

To minimize the occurrence of operator-induced problems, the NCCCO develops voluntary certification programs for all kinds of crane operators, including those who run the big tower cranes. Fifteen states have adopted the NCCCO’s certification guidelines as part of their formal crane licensing programs, and Brent says the organization has helped train “thousands more” operators across the country.

Training programs still have a ways to go. Barth says operators when he began in the crane business needed 4,000 hours of training to become certified on the most complex types of equipment. Nowadays he runs across employer training programs that seek to train crane operators in as little as few hours — though that short a period wouldn’t be common for the tower cranes.

New York State’s Labor Department has also run across training deficiencies. Last November, the department suspended 129 Crane Operator’s Certificates after discovering licenses were issued to individuals who failed the state’s practical exam.

Other crane toppling problems have nothing to do with the operator and everything to do with the on-site engineering. Barth cites a November 2006 Bellevue, WA crane accident that killed one man as an example. “The report on the Bellevue accident found that crane went down because it used a homemade steel base that did not meet the crane manufacturer’s criteria,” he says. The Washington Department of Labor and Industry’s investigation into the accident found the crane’s foundation, which should have been concrete, was designed to withstand only about one-fourth of the 210-ft tower’s load requirements.

Brent also says installation mistakes represent a leading cause of tower crane failures. “But the recent rash of tower crane accidents is unusual in that they occurred once the crane was erected,” he says, explaining most toppling accidents take place while the crane is being installed. “Once properly installed, tower cranes tend to be free of toppling accidents,” he says.

From: Design News International Engineering [mailto:dnonline@email.designnews.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 1:02 PM
To: Maxim Gots
Subject: NTSB Reports: Construction Materials Contributed to I-35W Bridge Collapse

Monday, April 07, 2008

Flatproofing improves safety

Flatproofing improves safety, says Arnco


Increasing awareness of safety issues in the operation of large earthmoving equipment is boosting demand for flatproofing, says tire fill manufacturer Arnco.

"Flatproofing is profitable in eliminating flats and costly downtime, but it takes on greater value by adding ballast and protecting equipment operators and nearby workers," says Bob Giasson, Arnco's director of marketing.

Operator safety is a particular concern among operators of ground support equipment and telescopic boom cranes, say Arnco officials.

"Flatproofing makes equipment more stable," they note.