NYC announces new construction safety measures

February 3, 2009 5:56:39 PM PST
The city set more than 40 new rules Tuesday for the struggling construction industry to make high-risk sites safer and correct problems such as those that led to two deadly crane collapses last year. The Department of Buildings said it would require crane owners and engineers to sign off on repairs, stand by while cranes are raised and lowered and mandate more scrutiny of older equipment. Officials also are looking at a way to see a crane's maintenance history and age online before it's used, similar to Web sites that provide that information about used cars.

The city will require engineers to closely review plans for pouring concrete, including ways to protect the job from high winds, and to inspect construction elevators.

Nine people died in two tower crane collapses between March and May of last year, and more than a dozen others were killed in a spate of deadly accidents, many involving falls during the pouring of concrete.

The city responded with increased inspections, stopped work more often at sites and rewrote dozens of regulations that many in the industry said were onerous.

Since the accidents the industry has been crippled by the failing economy, with billions of dollars of projects canceled or postponed. Real estate experts said at a business conference Tuesday that developers were seeking to reduce construction costs by up to 25 percent to get projects off the ground.

The city didn't say whether more inspectors would be hired to execute the new rules or whether the contractors would cover more of the costs.

The rules "are headed in the right direction," but "some of it needs further discussion," said Louis Coletti, president of the city's Building Trades Employers Association, an advocate for contractors.

One new rule, for instance, would require more frequent inspections of older cranes, but it doesn't say how often or how many years a crane would have to be in service. Spot inspections around the city in November found that one-fourth of the 38 active tower cranes were more than 30 years old.

The Kodiak tower crane that collapsed on May 30, killing two workers, was 24 years old and had parts that were no longer made. Investigators said a badly repaired crane part cracked before the collapse.

Buildings officials said the rules would be clarified and take effect in the next few months.

The city spent $4 million hiring engineering consultants and inspecting more than 600 construction sites before rewriting the regulations.


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