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Potential Black Boxes on Cranes in New York City

cranesIn February, a 500-foot crane from a construction site collapsed on a street in Manhattan. As a result, a pedestrian was killed, three people were injured, and vehicles below were crushed. Now, four months later, a city panel is urging the use of black box-like devices on cranes in order to gather data on crane activity. This would be a good way to learn how the crane is being operated and help determine what exactly causes issues, such as a collapse. Another possible requirement would be the installation of anemometers. These devices measure wind gusts lasting just three seconds.

This recommendation is similar to the one proposed in 2008 after two fatal crane accidents occurred. At the time, the city recommended a review of high-risk construction oversight, also urging the implementation of black boxes on cranes. Even now, there are no requirements set by the city to have this done. The new report will be reviewed by the Department of Buildings and the requirements they can implement, they would. The rest they would work out with the City Council.

The most recent report also calls for an extensive checklist that would allow for detailed inspection of each crane prior to everyday operations. This would open up a new position for a “Lift Director” who would oversee crane safety in all aspects.

Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler made the following statement,

It is a sensible thing and the time has come. If we claim to have the most stringent crane regulations in the country, which we firmly believe, this is the next step.

Some of the proposals in the new report are ones that are similar to the standard throughout the United States. Other proposals have already been started in recent years, such as the installation of black boxes for logging data on cranes. This would provide information such as how far the load is out, the configuration of the crane, any times the automatic settings are overridden by the operator, and switch settings. This data will then be provided to the Department of Buildings to help improve the safety standards.

As of now, there has still been no explanation as to why the crane collapsed in February. It has been reported that a black box was present, though, and it will be part of the city’s investigation into the cause. This black box can be used to track data on the wind, but some cranes choose to gather this information separately.

The city officially banned all cranes not designed to work with winds reaching more than 20 miles per hour after the February crane collapse. This led to some “cease operations” orders issued when winds reached 30 miles an hour. Workers, contractors, and developers complained when the cranes were shut down, especially when there was only a little wind detected. These cease operations orders would not exist under the new report recommendations, except when the weather is extreme. Rather, contractors would need to hire a meteorologist in order to pinpoint the forecasts and determine the wind’s effect on the construction site.

Hopefully the new measures will improve construction safety and reduce the risk of problems arising with crane use.

At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., our New York City construction accident lawyers know how dangerous cranes can be. We are encouraged to see that safety is a top priority. If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of a crane collapse or some other accident, contact our firm today. We can explain what legal options you may have.

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