New Crane Regulations Proposed in Washington State

More than three months after a 210-foot-tall tower crane toppled at a construction site in Bellevue, Wash., Washington state legislators have introduced crane safety legislation to improve inspections of crane equipment and certify crane operators.

The accident, which killed one resident after the crane crashed through his fourth-floor apartment, also forced evacuation of more than 300 people from the premises.

An ongoing Department of Labor and Industries investigation points to the crane's custom-designed base as the cause of its failure, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Lawmakers have responded by proposing a bill that would require certification of crane operators and regular, standard inspections of crane equipment. Additionally, all crane bases that deviate from standard design would have to be inspected by an independent engineer or firm before being used. The bill would take effect beginning in 2010.

Leading companies in the industry have already begun to display their displeasure regarding the bill. Weyerhaeuser and Boeing are among a number of companies that do not support it.

Industry leaders worry that the proposal would go too far and regulate smaller cranes and equipment used to install power lines or move products along an assembly line, in addition to cranes used in construction.

“The key is that businesses involved in manufacturing of airplanes, forest products and also utilities providers use certain kinds of cranes in manufacturing,” said Grant Nelson of the Association of Washington Business. “Either we need to define what construction is, or we need to add language that further clarifies which cranes are not covered.”

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, the bill's sponsor, said its language could be reworked further to clarify a focus on construction cranes, but that it is important something be done this session to address crane safety.

“We had a real tragedy last November,” she said. “We have the momentum to do something very significant.”

- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times

Read the follow-up story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/304313_crane20.html

Read the Post-Intelligencer's original accident story here: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/292762_crane17.html