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A pair of crane accidents five weeks apart has New Yorkers wondering about the threat of construction sites and heavy equipment to the public. A fatal accident occurred on April 24 when a collapsed crane crushed a construction worker. Then on May 31, 10 people suffered minor injuries when a crane's heavy payload broke free and came crashing down. For many New Yorkers, these accidents conjure memories of the tragic Halcyon Condos crane collapse of March 15, 2008 that killed seven people and injured 24 others.

In 2008, New York City set a record for building construction with $32 billion in spending. That record stood until 2014, when builders spent more than $36 billion. But has the increased spending brought us back to the "bad old days" of increased risk of catastrophic accidents? Have construction companies refused to learn the lessons from previous accidents, and are they putting New Yorkers at risk by repeating the mistakes of the past?

In the April 24 incident, early reports suggest that a leaky hydraulic system caused the crane's arm to dip, pinning a worker who was inspecting the rig. A burst hose is reportedly to blame. In the May 31 incident, workers were using a crane to lift a four-ton air-conditioning unit when a "rigging strap" snapped, causing the load to swing before crashing down the side of the building and onto the middle of Madison Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets.

While we still await final determinations, these early reports are reminiscent of the findings in the fatal 2008 crane collapse. In September 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Directorate of Construction issued its report on the Halcyon Condos crane collapse, concluding that several preventable factors contributed to the accident. These included:

  • The questionable use of polyester slings which are subject to large elongations and need to be constantly monitored and adjusted
  • Improper use of equipment against the crane manufacturer's recommendations
  • Use of deteriorated equipment that should have been spotted during inspection and discarded

At first blush, that last point seems relevant to the recent crane accidents. Should flaws in the hydraulic hose and the rigging strap have been spotted during inspection? If those defects had been found and those items replaced, could those accidents have been prevented?

No one in the construction industry can afford to forget the past. Anyone who employs or operates a crane should take a walk over to 303 E. 51st Street to view the still unfinished Halcyon Condos. The 2008 accident halted construction on that high-rise. Seven years later, its skeletal frame stands as an eerie reminder.

If you've been injured in a construction accident, concerned attorneys at Rubin & Licatesi, P.C. are ready to help. For a free consultation, call us at 516-227-2662 or contact our Brooklyn office online.

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Rubin & Licatesi, P.C.
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