Washington Legislature Sends Governor Crane Safety Bill

Responding to a public outcry over the potential dangers of cranes, Washington State senators sent Governor Chris Gregoire a bill to require strict regulations on cranes and crane operators. Sponsors say it will be America's toughest crane safety law and easily meets the new federal standards currently under development.

Lawmakers have been studying crane and operator regulations for years, but the issue gained momentum after the highly publicized tower crane accident in Bellevue, Wash., last fall, which collapsed and killed one man in his condo. Two weeks after that accident, another tower crane in the city was dismantled because of cracks that investigators blamed on water seeping in and freezing.

The restrictions would require the state Department of Labor & Industries to set up a certification program for cranes used in construction that includes inspection, regular testing, and other requirements. It also would set up stringent requirements for crane operators. The law would not apply to cranes used in manufacturing facilities or powerhouses.

While preparing the bill, senators sought after the advice of safety experts, construction companies, and crane owner and operators. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles called it one of the most important safety bills the Legislature has developed. Prior to the senate's vote, the opposition said it is too far-reaching, and the state should wait for federal rules before adopting its own. However, the Washington senate vote was 39-8.

The bill previously passed in the house, and its sponsor, Rep. Deb Eddy, said, “It doesn't seem too unreasonable to expect the biggest most expensive piece of equipment on a construction site • and the one that can create the most damage • would have some regulation. The governor is expected to sign the measure, which would take effect in 2010 after the state agency enacts regulations.

For the original story, go to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.