Contractor Group Sues NYC Over New Crane Safety Regulations

October 26, 2016



Members of the Building Trades Employers Association (BTEA), an industry group representing 27 trade union contractor associations in New York City, filed an Article 78 petition Tuesday against the Department of Buildings in New York City and Commissioner Richard D. Chandler seeking a judgment to permanently block new regulations regarding the operation of crawler cranes in high wind environments.

After a crawler crane collapse accident in Lower Manhattan on February 5, 2016, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio created a crane safety technical working group and ordered that all crawler crane operations must stop when the National Weather Service predicts winds will exceed or do exceed 30 mph.

The petitioning group says the crane accident was a result of operator error, not high wind speeds, and that requiring operations to stop when wind speeds are predicted to reach or do reach 30 mph will cause building delays and create unsafe work conditions.

The group maintains other cities have safety regulations that require crane operators to cease operations when conditions are actually unsafe or when wind speeds exceed the maximum speed for safe operations of the crane as determined by the crane manufacturer and judgment of the crane’s operator and safety coordinator. They disagree with what they call an arbitrary decision to use the 30 mph wind speed as the determining safety point.

 William J. Smith, Jr., an underwriting specialist in Nations Builders Insurance Services said, “Nothing in my 38 years of experience in crane and crane safety-related work justifies a uniform threshold of 30 mph. In fact, imposing a rule that crawler crane booms or jibs must be grounded whenever wind speeds reach 30 mph actually increases the risk of accidents. I have found no scientific or technical support for New York City’s new restrictions on crawler crane operations.”

The petitioners say the 30 mph limitation has been mischaracterized as adding an extra margin of safety to New York City crane operations, but it does just the opposite:  it makes unusual and risky crane operations more common and therefore increases the danger to pedestrians, construction workers, and the public.