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Do Construction Companies Learn from Mistakes?

Posted on December 29, 2014 by Kelly Wolford
Construction Injury Lawyer

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, the saying goes. Unfortunately, this appears to be the case with construction accidents involving cranes in New York City.

A dismaying report by the New York Daily News states that the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) ignored more than one-third of the 65 recommendations for changes that a consultant suggested after two construction crane collapses in Manhattan in 2008 killed a total of nine people.

The city hired CTL Engineers & Construction Technology Consultants to prepare a safety review after a 300-foot crane collapsed on East 51st Street in March of that year, killing seven people, and a second crane collapse occurred in May on East 91st Street, killing two construction workers. Construction accidents had soared by nearly 50 percent over two years, according to city data.

However, only eight of the consultant’s recommendations have been fully implemented, while 17 have been partially implemented, 18 are in progress and 22 have not been implemented at all, according to CBS New York, which obtained a copy of the audit report.

What Crane Safety Steps Have Not Been Taken?

According to that audit, the city has failed to act on safety recommendations that include requiring:

  • A technical adviser on a construction site during the assembly, climbing and dismantling of a tower crane
  • Inspections of custom-built hoisting systems that hold more than a ton
  • An engineer to determine that the building can support the loads imposed by the hoist
  • All bolted connections to be checked regularly
  • Crane maintenance personnel to have basic knowledge about bolt torque-ing
  • Site safety personnel to report to the owner of a project instead of a contractor or the construction manager (to avoid conflicts of interest)
  • A “two strikes and you’re out” provision to be levied against a contractor who fails to enforce safety regulations and procedures (a project would be shut down for a prescribed number of days).

The city paid the consultants $3.9 million for the study and another $1.9 million to help implement the recommendations. The consultant’s report was delivered in June 2009.

New York Law Holds Negligent Contractors Accountable

The audit report states, in part, that the “failed attempt thus far to address what have been identified as high-risk deficiencies in the DOB’s regulations and oversight may continue to expose the public and construction site workers to accidents and injuries.”

This audit report should raise concern among construction companies doing business in New York City and elsewhere in the state. It is an instance in which crane companies have not been required to take at least some of the steps they could take in order to ensure safe operations.

This continued exposure of the public and construction site workers to accidents and injuries, in the auditor’s words, is a continued exposure of construction companies to personal injury lawsuits due to crane collapses or other accidents.

New York law allows injured construction workers and their families and the public to hold negligent construction site owners and contractors such as crane companies liable for injuries sustained in a crane collapse or other construction site accident.

The city itself could arguably be a party in such a lawsuit based on the DOB’s failure to implement recommendations that would “significantly reduce the risk of future catastrophic failures in construction in the city.”

You can read more about New York construction law on our website. If you have been injured in any type of construction accident in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York State, contact Powers & Santola for a free discussion of your case and the legal options available to you.