A construction crane on the 45th floor of a Midtown Manhattan building burst into flames, causing it to collapse and come crashing down to the street below. The source of the fire appeared to be in the engine compartment. Early investigation has revealed the crane operator previously had his operator's license suspended in 2008 after a co-worker plummeted to his death while working together on a crane in Manhattan. Fortunately, the twelve individuals injured in this incident only sustained non-life-threatening injuries. If you recall, the NYC crane collapse of 2016 resulted in the death of a pedestrian.
While this incident will not likely trigger liability under the Labor Law (as no workers appear to have been injured), the project developers, owners, and contractors will likely be subject to multiple negligence lawsuits from the injured bystanders.
This incident is a good reminder for contractors to establish proper work procedures to avoid potential accidents by conducting a job hazard analysis ("JHA"). JHAs are particularly important when working with equipment or machinery that has the potential to cause severe or catastrophic injuries (such as the tower crane). Per OSHA, the following steps should be followed when preparing your JHA:
- Involve your employees - this will help minimize oversights, ensure quality analysis, and get workers to "buy in" to the safety program
- Review accident history - review your site's accident history and any "near misses," as these events are indicators that existing hazard controls may not be adequate
- Conduct a preliminary job review - discuss with your employees the hazards they know exist in the current work surroundings and brainstorm ideas to eliminate or control those hazards
- List, rank, and set priorities - list jobs with hazards that present unacceptable risks and prioritize accordingly
- Outline the steps or tasks - observe the work being performed and record each action, then review these steps with the employee
It is entirely possible that, had the JHA for the underlying crane included a check for fluid leaks before the start of each work day, this incident would not have occurred.