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Crane Accident Law Fails To Pass

April 23, 2008

With the increase in Crane Accidents in Florida recently, it would seem that a state-wide law governing the safe operation of large cranes would be an idea the entire Florida Legislature would easily approve.  Recent crane accident in South Florida alone have caused two deaths and seven people to become seriously injured

For two years, state legislators have tried to pass a law regulating the use of the contraptions that tower above South Florida’s skyline.  It appears the law may gain approval from the Florida House of Representatives today, but will be defeated in the Florida Senate.

“They don’t care how many folks die,” charged state Rep. Greg Evers, R-Baker, the bill’s co-sponsor in the House. “So how many people are we going to allow to get hurt when we could have a statewide ordinance that would protect the people all across the state?”The proposed legislation would require crane operators in Florida to be certified, and set penalties for those who work without certification.

That approach is flawed, opponents say, because it would not let cities and counties implement stricter standards of their own. Of special concern are construction conditions in Miami-Dade County, where high winds that pose a risk to cranes can gain momentum as they barrel through high rise-lined corridors.

Attorney Joseph M. Maus currently represents the family of a man killed in a crane accident at the Southwest Florida International Airport.  Jebel Polanco Zuniga was killed when a crane operator used a defective hook, allowing a 1000lb conrcrete form to become unhooked, falling on Mr. Zuniga and another co-worker.  The co-worker, Gustavo Orozco, was paralyzed in the accident.  According to Attorney Maus, “a simple check of the crane hook prior to its use would have prevented this tragic accident.”

On April 9 the boom of a 190-foot crane fell onto the fourth floor of a downtown Fort Lauderdale apartment building in the 400 block of Northeast Fifth Avenue. The noon-time accident caused minimal damage and no injuries.  But in March, the collapse of a section of crane in downtown Miami killed two workers and injured five. Less than two weeks later, two more people were injured when a load a construction crane was hoisting fell onto an Aventura building.

As it stands now, no federal oversight governs crane operations. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration mandates periodic inspection of cranes, but relies on construction owners or private contractors to perform them.  In March, Miami-Dade County passed a measure stricter than the proposed state legislation that governs crane testing, inspections, operator certification and high-wind operations.  If it passed, the state law would void that measure.

“The [proposed state] standards are substandard,” said Sen. Rudy Garcia, R- Hialeah, who has prevented the bill from being heard by the Senate’s Committee on Community Affairs, which he chairs.  The House legislation is based on national standards set by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, Evers said.  “It’s good enough for every place else in the country but not Miami,” Evers said.

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