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Crane collapse sheds light on operator’s past safety violations

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2023 | Construction Injuries

Even a quick glance at New York City’s imposing skyline will demonstrate the important role played by heavy duty cranes. Cranes pose a number of safety risks, especially when the crane is operating several tens of stories above the ground.

The City has imposed a number of safety regulations on these cranes, but occasionally, a crane will malfunction or collapse, thereby calling attention to the operator’s failure to follow the city’s safety rules. A recent crane collapse that was captured live on TV cameras has focused an especially harsh light on the crane’s owner and operator.

The incident

The crane was being used to hoist concrete to the top of a 36-story high-rise when a fire broke out in the cab. The crane operator was unable to extinguish the flames, and they weakened the main supporting cable. The cable snapped, and the 180-foot long arm of the crane collapsed and rained thousands of pounds of steel into the street below. The arm of the crane also struck the building across the street from the construction project.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt in this incident, but the collapse focused new attention on the crane’s owner, New York Crane and Equipment Corp., for past safety violations. Two of the city’s most disastrous crane collapses involved cranes owned by New York Crane and Equipment. The two collapses occurred two months apart in 2008, and a total of nine people died in the two mishaps.

The city investigated these accidents and suspended the operating license of one of the crane operators. His name is Chris Van Duyne, and he was the operator of the crane that collapsed in the most recent incident.

The aftermath

No public charges have been leveled against New York Crane, but the executive director of the Center for Building in North America, pointed out an unintended consequence of New York’s tight restrictions on crane operators. These safety measures may have the undesirable effect of foreclosing New York City to other operators whose operations may be safter than the practices of current licensees.

Several persons were injured in the latest crane collapse, but none of them appears to have been seriously injured. The state’s worker’s compensation system will probably provide adequate compensation for their injuries.

If any of the injured workers suffered injuries whose cost in terms of medical expenses and time lost from work exceed the applicable workers’ compensation benefits, the facts of the case support an inference that one or more non-employers may be responsible for these injuries.

In cases such as this, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can offer useful assistance in untangling the liability of all of the potential defendants.