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Wed October 20 2021

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Three companies fined over fatal Seattle crane collapse

21 Oct 19 The cause has been established for a fatal crane collapse in the USA earlier this year, with three companies fined over their part in the accident.

The three companies are facing more than US$100,000 in fines for safety violations in connection with the collapse, which killed four people.

Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has announced today the fines following a nearly six-month investigation into the collapse, which happened when the crane was being dismantled in Seattle in April. It was being used on a new building for Google.

L&I determined that the crane collapse was caused by the companies not following the manufacturer's procedures for dismantling the structure, including prematurely removing nearly all of the pins and sleeves that helped hold the crane together.

With the pins removed, the tower was significantly weakened, making it susceptible to the 45-plus miles per hour wind gust that toppled it. When the pins are in place, tower cranes can withstand much stronger gusts.

Four people were killed when the crane fell, including two workers who were at the top of the crane, and two people in cars below.

"This tragic event must not be repeated," said L&I director Joel Sacks. "We expect all companies to follow manufacturers' procedures and have a single point of authority overseeing crane assembly or disassembly. There has to be one person on site who knows the rules and is in charge."

L&I investigators spent hundreds of hours interviewing workers and company representatives, examining the wreckage and working to understand what went wrong. The agency has taken steps to increase crane safety and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

On 11th June, L&I's Division of Occupational Safety &  Health (DOSH) issued a hazard alert stressing proper procedures for assembling and dismantling tower cranes. The alert says crane companies must follow manufacturers' procedures. It also reinforces that pins and other connectors should only be removed for the individual crane segment that is being lifted. Some states and countries have used L&I's alert as a model to draft their own crane hazard alerts.

DOSH has also asked companies to report when they are assembling or disassembling tower cranes. Several have done so, and the agency has performed a number of spot inspections as a result.

"When crane safety regulations are not followed in this industry, it can be catastrophic," said Anne Soiza, L&I's assistant director who oversees DOSH. "Cranes are safe when manufacturers' procedures and our rules are followed. We're sharing the lessons learned from this tragic incident and are already seeing signs that it's increasing safety in the industry."

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 L&I investigated five companies and has cited and fined three of them a total of US$107,200 for multiple violations.

The tower crane is owned by Morrow Equipment LLC and was leased by GLY Construction for the construction project. Northwest Tower Crane Services provided the crew dismantling the crane.

Morrow Equipment, LLC was cited for one willful serious violation for not following the crane manufacturer's procedures, which directly contributed to the collapse. In a willful violation, an employer either knowingly ignored a legal requirement or was indifferent to employee safety.

Morrow approved the removal of the pins. As the crane equipment supplier, they had the highest amount of expertise at the jobsite. The manufacturer's procedures say not to remove pins other than the ones for each individual section being dismantled. Morrow was fined US$70,000.

L&I cited GLY Construction for three serious violations, including not having a qualified supervisor and other personnel on site at all times during the disassembly operations; not ensuring the manufacturer's procedures were followed, and not accounting for weather conditions. GLY was fined US$25,200.

Northwest Tower Crane Services was cited for three serious violations, including not following the manufacturer's procedures, not ensuring workers understood their assigned duties, and inadequate training of workers. They face US$12,000 in fines.

Two other companies, Seaburg Construction and Omega Rigging and Machinery, were not cited for any violations.

The employers have 15 business days to appeal the citations.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers' compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

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