Crane Advisory Panel to Bring Regulations to Miami Construction

It took a tragedy, but now Miami-Dade County is only steps away from making sweeping changes to crane safety in the area. A 20-person crane advisory panel consisting of dealers, rental companies, operators, developers, end users, equipment inspection companies, general contractors, and an attorney has been working for months to formulate crane safety recommendations to propose to the Miami-Dade County commissioners. The advisory panel's most recent meeting occurred on Jan. 23, 2007 during which the panel adjusted and finalized the wording of particular issues and came up with some tentative dates for implementation. The definitive version of the crane recommendations is scheduled to be released after the panel's next meeting on February 20.

The panel, which was formed by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, came in response to a fatal tower crane accident where a father fell 39 stories to his death as his son looked on. Miami traffic was gridlocked for days as authorities, worried about the crane's stability, rerouted traffic. Edmonson moved quickly and created the committee a week after the tragedy because - despite the recent construction boom - Miami and Southern Florida had yet to establish any local rules regulating cranes. “With a death, I think it's time that we all take it seriously and realize that terrible things can happen,” Edmonson told the Miami Herald after the accident. If a set of regulations were put in place in Miami-Dade County, it would cover the city of Miami and heavy construction areas outside the city, such as Dadeland and Sunny Isles Beach.

Since its formation in April 2006, the committee's purpose and agenda has grown from the original task of addressing tower crane inspections to include sub-committees looking at regulations for tower cranes, mobile cranes, and personal material hoists/construction elevators. According to panel chairman Richard Horton, president of Green Construction, the group is now working on recommendations in four categories: crane operator qualifications, hurricane preparedness, inspection and enforcement, and codes and standards.

Operator Certification

Although crane operator certification requirements are in the works at the state and federal level, the county group did not want to ignore this important facet of safe crane operation. A bill to be introduced in the coming Florida State legislative session would require certification for crane operators and crane signal persons. In addition, OSHA's construction crane and derrick standard being revised by the agency's Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Committee may be nearing completion. Among its provisions is the certification of crane operators.

“Miami-Dade wanted to be proactive about forming regulations concerning the safety of their cranes,” said Brian Silbernagel, corporate safety director for North America Liebherr distributor Morrow Equipment and workgroup member. “There's always a chance of something not coming through when you expect it too, and Miami-Dade didn't want to get stuck without some regulations on operator certification.

With that in mind, the panel got to work quickly on the best strategy to use for arranging proper operator certification. “We wanted to get this taken care of early,” said Al Soto, corporate safety and risk management director for Sims Crane and a member of the group. “There had been a lot of work done on this previously, so we pretty much took what was already out there and worked with it. We took a lot of Cal/OSHA's ideas especially concerning any crane operator certification being up to NCCCO standards.”

Hurricane Preparedness

One of the major issues facing contractors in Miami and southern Florida is hurricane preparedness for crane operations. “We're still going back and forth on the issues and the wording,” said Soto, who also chaired the hurricane preparedness subcommittee. “There are so many things to consider when considering regulations for hurricane preparedness. However, the main thing we want to emphasize is that all cranes should follow hurricane precautions. We would really like to schedule this for implementation by June 1, before hurricane season starts.””

Among the recommendations: lattice booms should be laid down if possible; other mobile crane booms should be retracted; rigging and blocks should be removed or secured, as well as flags or company banners. The workgroup also discussed which months would be deemed “hurricane season.”

With those recommendations in mind, it would be up to the contractor in charge to come up with a plan for each jobsite and how they would prepare their equipment in the event of a hurricane. “We do realize that some actions just aren't feasible to do in certain situations,” Soto added. “We're taking things into account, including, among other things, who is responsible for taking down �bare rental' tower cranes.”

Inspection

At press time, the group had not reached a consensus on how to approach inspections. “We've discussed both government and third part inspectors,” said Silbernagel. “We may have some clarification at our next meeting. Although third party inspectors work, many of us believe it would be better if a government entity with a permitting system would oversee the inspections. Third party inspectors can come from most anywhere, and with a government entity there would be more uniformity in the process.”

However, if the group did turn to third party inspectors, there might be stringent requirements on those inspectors. “We want dual qualified inspectors,” Soto said. “Professional inspectors shouldn't be someone who has never been up in a tower crane or in a mobile crane before. The inspectors should be qualified by the manufacturer of the crane and whatever third party organization that they come from.”

Regulations and Standards

As for regulations and standards, the workgroup unanimously decided to adopt an assortment of regulations concerning the heights of structures in windy areas. Originally, the group considered adopting ASCE 7-02 “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures,” but could not accept that policy in its entirety because of the limitation it might pose on tower crane operations when multiple cranes are working in the same area.

Mike Quinn, workgroup member and structural engineering manager of Morrow, decided to take on the challenge that was presented with the standard. He determined that if ASCE 7-02 was used in conjunction with SEI/ASCE 37-02 “Designed Loads on Structures During Construction” then an economical construction sequence could be achieved by reducing the ASCE 7 design wind speed for the duration of construction provided by ASCE 37.

“Under ASCE 7-02, the mean wind recurrence interval is 50 years, leading to much longer exposure to wind conditions. By reducing the amount of time the cranes are in the construction area, there is a reduced chance that wind loads will reach there extremes, thereby allowing for multiple cranes to be at varying heights.” The workgroup voted to adopt a combination of the ASCE 07 and ASCE 37 standards.

Forming a consensus

While many of the kinks and trouble-spots still need to be worked out of the recommendations, many of the members of the panel are happy to be part of the process. “If this works out, the well being of the cranes and the people involved are certainly going to be taken care of,” Silbernagel said. “Morrow supports this group 100% and believes the recommendations are productive.”

Quinn agrees. “There is just a good cross section of all the parties involved in the working of this document,” he said. “Whatever comes out of the panel, we'll know that it's been a document built on a consensus.”