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For Immediate Release
March 25, 2008

BUILDINGS COMMISSIONER PATRICIA LANCASTER ANNOUNCES IMMEDIATE CHANGES TO INSPECTION PROTOCOL FOR TOWER CRANES

Inspectors To Be On Site During Jumping Operations
Inspections of Tower Cranes To Be Prioritized
During Safety Sweep

Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster today announced interim changes to the Department's inspection protocol regarding tower cranes, the type of crane involved in the accident at 303 East 51st Street on Saturday, March 15. These changes are being made as a precautionary measure as the Department conducts its inspection sweep of tower cranes, assesses existing safety practices on crane sites, and continues its forensic investigation into the cause of the collapse of the tower crane.  Until further notice, a Buildings Inspector must be present on a construction site whenever a tower crane is raised or lowered in New York City, to ensure safe practices are being employed by those operating the crane. In a    regulatory notice (41 kb) issued to the construction industry today, Commissioner Lancaster outlined this and other measures, including a requirement for engineers who design cranes to inspect the cranes before they are raised or lowered. These changes come as the Department continues its inspection sweep of approximately 30 tower cranes in New York City, which will be complete by April 15.

"Tower cranes are highly-engineered structures that present unique challenges both to the operator and workers using them. While the tragic accident on March 15 was a rare occurrence, we are expanding oversight of cranes as a precautionary measure while we await the findings of our forensic investigation. Starting today I have ordered changes to the inspection protocol for tower cranes that will be in effect until further notice.  Any crane operating in an unsafe manner will be shut down immediately," said Commissioner Lancaster.

Since the collapse of the tower crane at 303 East 51st Street, the Buildings Department has not approved any permits for jumping operations. Until further notice, the protocol announced today will require a Buildings inspector to be present on site any time a contractor raises or lowers a crane's mast-a process known as "jumping" the crane-to supervise this operation.

As part of the regulatory notice, effective today, in order to seek approval to raise or lower a tower crane, the Buildings Department will require the following:

  • The engineer of record to conduct a full inspection of the crane and certify to the Buildings Department that it is built according to the approved plans;
  • The engineer of record to provide to all responsible parties on the construction site a written protocol for workers to jump the crane, which must incorporate the manufacturing guidelines and site-specific details of installation; and
  • The general contractor to convene a safety meeting to coordinate the responsible parties - including the general contractor, the licensed rigger, the crane operator and the jumping crew.  Until further notice, a Buildings inspector must attend these safety coordination meetings to ensure that all safety measures are being taken. 

Additional changes in procedures may be made after the Department's forensic investigation of the collapse, which includes a review of materials used during the jumping operations.

Ongoing Tower Crane Safety Sweep To Conclude By April 15

These changes to the Department's inspection protocol for tower cranes come as Buildings inspectors are in the midst of a safety sweep of approximately 30 tower cranes, which began on March 20.  Each inspection includes a comprehensive review of the crane's structure.  These inspections can last several hours. Seven Buildings inspectors are conducting the safety sweep, and during the inspections they are required to ensure that:

  • Approved engineering plans for the crane are on site;
  • The crane is installed according to the approved engineering plans;
  • The crane is secured to the building according to the approved engineering plans; and
  • Plumb and torque tests have been performed, and the appropriate documentation is on site.

At the conclusion of the safety sweep of tower cranes, the Buildings Department will focus on the other approximately 220 cranes in operation in New York City.  The inspections of these cranes should be complete by the end of May.

Cranes that do not comply will be immediately shut down and removed from use until they are made safe. The Buildings Department will utilize the results of the tower crane safety sweep, which will be completed by April 15, to identify additional measures the Department can make to increase crane safety and oversight of tower crane operations.

The interim changes to the inspection protocol for tower cranes follow the collapse of the crane at 303 East 51st Street on Saturday, March 15th, and the subsequent arrest of Buildings Inspector Edward Marquette, who allegedly falsely indicated that he performed an inspection of that crane on March 4. Following the arrest, Commissioner Lancaster:

  • Ordered an immediate re-inspection of 100% of the cranes inspected by Edward Marquette over the last six months.

  • Requested the Department of Investigation (DOI) to investigate 100% of Edward Marquette's inspection reports over the last six months. DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn has pledged her full cooperation, continuing a partnership to eliminate corruption within the Buildings Department and the construction industry.

  • Requested the Department of Investigation to conduct a thorough review of the Cranes & Derricks Unit procedures and personnel for further recommendations.

  • Re-distributed to the Department's 1,300 employees the Code of Conduct - an ethical code for professional behavior - to enforce the strict standards and zero-tolerance policy set for Buildings staff and the construction industry.

  • Launched a full operational review of the Cranes & Derricks Unit and ordered crane applications and associated documents be incorporated into the Department's online database for added transparency.

Since 2002, the Buildings Department has worked aggressively to streamline its processes, improve transparency, and infuse integrity and accountability into the construction process. With new enforcement models such as the Stop Work Order Patrol, the new Scaffold Safety Team, and the Construction Superintendent Rule, Buildings inspectors are conducting more proactive inspections of construction activity across the five boroughs than at any point in the Department's history. Building on this progress, the Department's Special Enforcement Plan, launched in July 2007, will further the Department's mission of ensuring the safe and lawful use of all of New York City's 975,000 buildings and properties.

New Yorkers are encouraged to call 3-1-1 to report non-compliant conditions or 9-1-1 to report emergencies at construction sites. 

Contact:     Kate Lindquist/Carly Sullivan (212) 566-3473

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