Tragic Accidents

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On October 30, 2003, a tragic accident occurred in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Trades people were placing concrete for the eighth level of a garage that would contain 2400 automobile parking spaces at the Tropicana Hotel. Without warning, the garage collapsed and killed 4 workers and injured 30 others. OSHA was involved in the investigation of the collapse and found that the engineer's design for slab reinforcing bar connections to the main structural wall were not followed and proper shoring was not installed. There were some indications that the contractors were trying to expedite the garage construction in order to meet a March 2004 hotel opening date. Based on the events and subsequent investigations by OSHA, numerous agencies, and consulting firms, the following were the adverse results of this tragic accident:

1. Four workers were killed.

2. Thirty workers were injured.

3. Four construction firms were fined $119,000 by OSHA (maximum under the current guidelines at that time).

4. Lawsuits were settled for $101 million (one of the largest settlements for a construction "accident").

5. The project was delayed.

6. The garage was reconstructed.

This is a tragic example of what can happen when proper safety precautions are not addressed and the contractors do not follow the engineer's drawings.

On March 15, 2008, a crane collapsed in a dense neighborhood of New York City killing seven people (five were from the crane rigging company, one was the crane operator, and one was a woman staying in one of the buildings that was hit by the crane's tower). The collapse occurred when the riggers were jumping the tower crane and placing the support collar onto the building structure. The collar broke away from the riggers (supposedly due to a faulty $50 nylon sling), slid down the crane's support tower, and caused the other support collars to break away from the building. The tower crane became unstable and fell into several apartment buildings just south of where the original construction was taking place. Exhibit 5-25A shows part of the crane leaning on an apartment building.

The event that caused this tragic accident was that the riggers were supposedly using defective rigging equipment. The crane's collapse caused the death of 7 people and injury to an additional 25 people. In addition, a high-density urban area (affecting 300 apartments) was shut down several months, affecting businesses and preventing residents from occupying their apartments. The filing of lawsuits, loss of business, fines, and the project being shut down are just some of the adverse secondary losses that have occurred with the crane's collapse. In addition, after further review of the zoning for the building, officials determined that the total square footage being constructed was in violation of current zoning regulations.

On May 30, 2008, another crane accident occurred in New York City, killing the crane operator and another worker on the ground. Initial indications were that mechanical failure occurred at the turntable below the cab, which caused the cab to fall from the mast and land on a busy New York City street. The falling cab and boom caused extensive damage to several apartment buildings surrounding the construction site. As in the March 15, 2008 incident, not only is a construction project stopped but also a dense urban neighborhood is being adversely affected. The New York City Department of Buildings issued a stop work order to all construction sites using jumping cranes.

The March 10, 2008 Engineering News Record article "Cranes, Stalled Federal Rules Prompt State Action" reviewed the construction industry's lack of crane inspection and proper crane operator's certification. A death in Miami-Dade County, Florida caused by a crane collapse has prompted the Miami-Dade County building officials to create an ordinance for better crane safety. On March 24, 2008, another crane collapsed in Miami Beach, Florida and caused two deaths and five injuries. This collapse seems to have been caused by heavy winds when the crane was being jumped. It seems the riggers were rushing to jump the crane after several days of delays caused by high winds.

With the number of cranes operating in major urban centers, it behooves all project managers (PM) to review and evaluate the safety requirements, rigging equipment used, connections inspected, and operator certification for the cranes. Just as the crane collapses in New York City on March 15, 2008 and May 30, 2008 caused several deaths and extensive damage to dense neighborhoods, additional and more extensive safety care has to be exercised by all participating members of the construction process in an urban environment.

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