The City of New York is getting serious about construction regulation and using the full extent of the law to punish those who have acted negligently on the jobsite. Last year, Mayor Bill De Blasio issued a new law requiring all construction workers to undergo, at minimum, 40 hours of safety training. In 2016, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. successfully convicted a construction foreman of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment after a laborer was killed in a trench collapse that he was overseeing. Earlier this month, DA Vance announced assault charges against a superintendent and branch manager after 2 men suffer horrific injuries on their jobsite.
According to the charges, a mini crane was being used to lift glass panels from the second floor of a luxury high rise project in Harlem to the fourth floor on June 25, 2018. The branch manager of the building façade installation company, who ordered the crane, failed to ensure that his employees were trained to operate the mini crane and did not obtain the required engineer’s plans prior to use.
The site superintendent instructed an ironworker on site to use the mini crane, even though that worker was not trained to use it, and also instructed two other workers to work below the crane and guide the glass panels into place. The crane then capsized while lifting the panels, allegedly due to the load being over the crane’s capacity, and caused severe injuries to the two workers down below. One suffered a traumatic brain injury, which has affected his ability to walk and speak. The other suffered major spinal injuries and has trouble walking and moving.
Both the superintendent and branch manager have been charged with two counts of Felonious Assault in the Second Degree and two counts of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, which is a class A misdemeanor.
Due to the increased use of “mini cranes” around the city, New York City’s Department of Buildings started requiring crane operator training on the specific make and model, as well as continuing to require the submission of engineering plans explaining how the crane will be used. The DOB regulations require that mini cranes are tethered, as well.
In a statement, District Attorney Vance said: “158,000 New Yorkers now make up our city’s construction workforce. It’s these workers who build and grow our city, and it’s these workers who pay the price when construction supervisors cut corners in order to build faster. In doing so, they not only endanger the lives of their workers, but the lives of the pedestrians and cyclists that live and work around these sites every day. As alleged in this case, these defendants knowingly skirted DOB safety protocols to speed up their project, resulting in devastating, life-changing injuries for two workers when a mini crane fell from the fourth floor, catapulting one as it hurtled to the ground. As the use of these remotely operated, lightweight cranes continues to grow, contractors must ensure their workers are trained and their plans are DOB-approved, and always make sure these dangerous pieces of equipment are securely tethered. Those who fail to follow building regulations and recklessly kill or maim their workers will be criminally prosecuted.”
According to NYC.gov, a mini crane is a “mobile crane (wheel or tread mounted) with a boom length (including jibs or any extensions) not exceeding 50 feet, and with a manufacturer’s rated capacity of three (3) tons or less.”