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When it comes to crane brains, New York cant go back to the old ways
May 25, 2016
Ensuring the safety of construction workers and members of the public needs to be of paramount importance, particularly as the pace and scale of development increases throughout New York City.
This priority is probably most pronounced when it comes to the operation and maintenance of construction cranes.
As the recent accident on Worth Street in Lower Manhattan illustrated, when problems occur with the operation and maintenance of such large pieces of equipment, it can have tragic consequences for the public and construction workers.
Law enforcement and regulatory agencies are still conducting an investigation of the Worth Street accident to identify the specific cause or causes of the crane collapse.
Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, there should be a consensus around the idea that crane operators in New York City should receive the best training and testing available to ensure they are well qualified to operate these critical pieces of equipment.
Thankfully, in recent years, New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has taken important steps to significantly upgrade the training and testing requirements for operators of the largest cranes in New York City.
Under DOB’s new requirements, applicants are required to pass written and practical exams tailored to the specific equipment for which the license is to be issued. The exams are developed by an expert panel of crane operators, owners and manufacturers to ensure that the applicant has a broad range of knowledge and perspective.
Applicants also are required to take a 40-hour training course on New York City’s construction and safety regulations and unique environment, undergo a criminal background check, demonstrate physical fitness, submit to a substance abuse test and comply with a substance abuse policy.
Upon license renewal every three years, applicants must complete an 8-hour refresher training course.
As a result of these changes by DOB, the City’s manner of testing applicants for Class A and B crane operator licenses (the largest cranes) have been brought into compliance with new federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.
DOB’s new system is a vast improvement over the procedures that previously existed.
Under the prior rules, there was no mandated training course, practical training and testing did not need to occur on a type of crane that a prospective operator might one day be responsible for, and the testing was in the hands of another City agency that lacked any experience in the operation or maintenance of such equipment, rather than with experts who are most knowledgeable about the latest advancements in construction cranes.
Unfortunately, there are those who remain opposed to the DOB’s changes that will lead to greater safety for construction workers and the public.
For example, in 2013, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-14B filed a lawsuit against the City of New York seeking to invalidate the new rules and to put the previous training and testing requirements back in place. Similarly, Councilmember Ben Kallos introduced legislation in the City Council to revert crane licensing to the prior system.
New York City’s construction workers and public cannot bear such a regressive risk.
Fortunately, the Appellate Division wisely upheld the DOB’s new training and testing regime. The union has stated it plans to appeal the ruling to a higher court.
In the meantime, New Yorkers should take a moment to observe the crane activity around the city and consider what kind of operator should be in control of such large machinery.
The answer should be clear; one would want an operator who was trained on the most modern equipment and tested by a panel of industry experts. And that is precisely the kind of operator that the DOB’s current licensing system will produce.