August 2008: For The Record

Words: Dan KamysAugust 2008 For The Record

How Many People Have to Die?

Jennifer MorrellJennifer Morrell Editor

The TV news is always depressing if you watch for long enough. Each broadcast is littered with reports of violent murders, confusing "natural" deaths and random accidents.

But how random are most accidents? My feeling is that many accidents can be avoided, if the parties involved use common sense, forethought and preventive safety measures.

Topping my short list of avoidable accidents are fatalities suffered from crane falls. How many more hardworking people have to fall to their deaths before we get a handle on this problem? There is one certainty here: The construction industry must make a decision to do what is necessary to comply with rules and regulations to prevent future deaths.

As you may recall, two fatal crane incidents have occurred in New York City this year. A tower crane toppled March 15 in midtown, killing seven people, and two construction workers died May 30 when another tower crane collapsed on the Upper East Side.

Insult to injury

Recently, Newsday reported that a 26-year veteran New York City crane inspector was charged with pocketing thousands of dollars in bribes from a Long Island, N.Y.-based company during the last eight years in exchange for fake reports. The acting chief inspector with the Department of Buildings was arrested on charges of falsifying business records, offering false instruments for filing, tampering with public records, and receiving unlawful gratuities, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office.

And, although his actions do not appear connected to the March and May crane collapses, what does this say about the construction industry and its peripheral affiliates?

The semi-good news

Not everyone is sitting back and watching. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) has called for timely completion of new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) crane safety standards. The group has urged the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA to act now for timely completion of the crane safety standards that have been in development since 2003.

AEM President Dennis Slater sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary, Elaine Chao, and OSHA Assistant Secretary, Edwin Foulke, asking the department to "expedite the approval process and give this safety initiative the full attention it deserves."

In addition, the American Society of Safety Engineers has called a media advisory for Nov. 20 - 21 in Arizona to address the injuries and fatalities from crane accidents, falls, electrical accidents and substance abuse that occur often at construction sites. The Solutions in Construction Safety symposium will feature sessions on crane safety; the Minneapolis bridge collapse and the crisis operations that followed; preventing strains/sprains and slips/trips/falls; protecting the public; the issues of control of substance abuse at a construction jobsite; and lessons learned in fall protection.

We can't ignore these preventable deaths any longer. I hope you'll embrace OSHA's efforts to keep our workers safe, and pay special attention to how safely you run your jobsites.

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