Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Horse Sense Approach to Crane Safety

Union Using Horse Sense Approach to Crane Safety

The item below from The Express Times, written by Kurt Bresswein, indicates that the Operating Engineer Union officials are working towards more safe-work conditions by training crane operators in Safety regarding the operating and inspecting cranes. This is a SUPER attitude and should vastly improve the safety records on all type cranes on construction sites.

Also, noted is the fact that Signal person and Rigging standards are to be available soon.

These groups are to be commended for their efforts in promoting safety on construction sites and statistics should be evident in the near future.

Federal eyes miss Bethlehem cranes

No government official has inspected machines at casino site. But others have done the job.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Express-Times

BETHLEHEM | Four cranes rise above the roofline of the $800 million Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem midway through construction, with smaller ones below sharing the load.

Despite 18 crane-related deaths and 13 injuries since December nationwide, not one government official has set foot on site for an inspection.

The city's chief code official, Craig Hynes, said temporary equipment falls outside city building codes. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry says crane inspections are up to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"We do proactive inspections for industries that have a pretty high injury and illness rate," OSHA spokeswoman Leni Fortson said. "Construction is definitely one of those."

But as of Friday, OSHA had not made one of its random inspections at the casino property, Fortson said.

Rising as high as 950-foot South Mountain a neighborhood away, the cranes receive daily inspections by certified operators, according to Jim Reilley, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542. The union represents crane operators and related jobs of signalperson and rigger.

The union maintains a facility in Bernville, Berks County, to train its workers on tower cranes -- the tallest ones, their bases encased in concrete -- and mobile cranes that move about on treads or tires.

Crane operators receive certifications good for five years by passing written and practical tests conducted by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators based in Fairfax, Va. Testing is done throughout the country, including as close as Absecon, N.J., and Harrisburg.

Signalperson and rigger certification programs are expected to start by year's end, the commission says.

"We hope to ensure as much as humanly possible the safety on the particular sites," Reilley said.

Among the worst recent incidents was March 15 in New York, when a 19-story crane broke away from an apartment tower under construction, killing six construction workers and a tourist. Ten days later, a crane at a condo project in Miami fell 30 stories, killing two workers and injuring five. Another two workers died in a 200-foot crane collapse May 30 in New York.

Other incidents have occurred in Port Washington, Wis.; Pacific Junction, Montpelier and Adar, Iowa; Parole and Dundalk, Md.; Iatan, Mo.; Las Vegas; and Wright, Wyo.

The high-profile accidents belie the relative safety of everyday operations, said Dennis Bates, vice president of the tower division for AmQuip Crane Rental. With its headquarters in Bensalem, Pa., AmQuip rents cranes locally at Schoenersville Road and Route 22 in Bethlehem.

Tower cranes alone number about 3,000 in North America, with about 2,100 in operation on any given day, Bates said. With a conservative estimate of 50 lifts and picks a day, that's 105,000 daily operations that never make headlines.

AmQuip's efforts to ensure safety begin with going beyond federal OSHA standards, Bates said. In-house technicians certify cranes for use once they're erected, and the company uses professional engineers to design foundations and tie-ins.

Operators do their own daily inspections, and the company tests every connection and bolt once a crane returns from a job. They also hire independent overseers.

"We as a company, as AmQuip, we go out and hire third-party inspectors to inspect our inspectors, our technicians," Bates said.

Construction on the South Side Bethlehem casino complex began in April 2007. Opening day is set for early summer 2009. Efforts failed to reach a representative of Las Vegas Sands Corp., the parent organization of developer Sands BethWorks Gaming LLC, for comment.

Reporter Kurt Bresswein can be reached at 610-867-5000 or by e-mail at kbresswein@express-times.com.

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