Texas Crane Collapse

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Large cranes are now a basic tool for high-rise construction.  Over the last six months the United States has had several crane collapses.  The latest occurred in Texas on 19 July 2008 and involved a mobile crane.  The collapse resulted in four deaths and injuries to seven workers.  Fed-OSHA is investigating but as this is the latest in a run of collapses there is increased media attention.

According to the most recent media statement by the company that owned the crane, Deep South Crane & Rigging

“The Deep South Crane and Rigging Company experienced a tragic industrial accident yesterday in Houston, TX, that resulted in the death of four members of our company family. Our thoughts and prayers are focused on our deceased co-workers, their families and friends, and the extended Deep South Crane and Rigging family.

We wish we had all of the answers on what happened and why – but we do not – and speculating on cause would not resolve anything. But we are actively working to find those answers. We are fully engaged and cooperating with OSHA in their investigation of the accident. Our common goal is to identify the root cause, correct any issue that may be found, and ensure that this type of tragic accident does not occur again.”

According to one article:

“An Associated Press analysis in June found that cities and states have wildly varying rules governing construction cranes, and some have no regulations at all, choosing instead to rely on federal guidelines dating back nearly 40 years that some experts say have not kept up with technological advances.”

Video and audio reports on the incident are available through the links below.  SafetyAtWorkBlog will be reporting on any new information about the investigations

Company representative – http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5896374.html  

Crane investigations – http://www.khou.com/video/index.html?nvid=264952 

Crane investigations/”competent person” – http://kut.org/items/show/13389

Climate Change Green Paper – OHS role

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At the moment I am watching Senator Penny Wong  releasing the Australian government’s green paper into climate change reduction, focussing on an emissions trading scheme.  Some OHS professionals have disputed the relationship between environmental management and safety management.  In practice there has always been an overlap in the disciplines and increasingly in management pocesses, auditing and standards.

The Green Paper  has a direct OHS impact in the mining industry where fugitive emissions now need to be measured for climate change purposes as well as for health and safety compliance. Section 5.4 of the Summary of Preferred Positions states

The following sources would have minimum standards for emissions estimation methodologies imposed from the commencement of the scheme:
* electricity sector emissions (as required for the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme and the Generator Efficiency Standards program)
* perfluorocarbon emissions (from aluminium production, as is current business practice and used for the National Greenhouse Accounts)
* fugitive emissions from underground coal mines (as currently mandated by state safety regulations for the large majority of mines).

The issue of climate change and the government’s emphasis on business impacts means that we need to reassess some of our amentiies, facilities and work methods to accommodate increased risks from climate change.  The Green Paper describes several ways that climate change will change how we work.  For instance when assessing the integrity of our building facilities we need to reconsider the structural tolerances as the report says

In our built environment, a 25 per cent increase in wind gust speed can lead to a 550 per cent increase in damage costs for buildings, with risks to human safety, largely because building or engineering standards have been exceeded.

Business continuity is going to undergo a revolution in criteria to be considered far beyond what we experienced with increased terrorist risks.

Construction site deaths and union calls for manslaughter charges

Last weekend two Queensland workers fell 26 storeys from swing scaffolding to their deaths.  They were patching concrete on a building from a platform similar to those used by high-rise window cleaners. According to a 24 June 2008 ABC news report: “The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says the men were wearing harnesses…

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Speeding in roadside worksites

I have a confessions to make.  I stick to the speed limit and in over 25 years of driving cars and riding motorcycles, I have never had a speeding ticket.  That may make me sound like a grumpy old fart but I can’t see how it can be worth putting yourself and others at risk for little return….

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New York Crane Safety Podcast

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On 3 June 2008, Brian Lehrer of radio station WNYC conducted a discussion on the issues of occupational health safety as it relates to New York City’s second crane collapse in a couple of months and a sharp rise in construction deaths so far in 2008.

The speakers are very critical of the Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the resources provided to it by the Federal Government.  Speakers also raise the issues of the rate of construction, the skill levels of inspectors, shortage of building equipment, union membership, in passing, the legal status of migrant workers, and the assessment criteria of inspectors on construction sites.

The resource levels and strategic planning matters raised in this discussion echo many of the debates that are occuring in Europe and Australia.

The podcast is available for download by clicking HERE