When a crane collapsed in Hudson Yards earlier this month, killing one and injuring four, it set off a big battle between the Bloomberg administration and the crane operators union, the Local 14 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
The administration wanted stricter standards and crane operators to pass a national certification test; the union said that the administration was merely doing the bidding of real estate developers, who wanted to break their hold on construction jobs, and said that New York City was such a unique environment that a national test wouldn’t be appropriate.
Today, it appears as if the administration won.
According to a release from the administration’s press office, the Buildings Department “today announced strict new licensing and testing requirements for all crane operators in New York City to raise safety standards for crane operations citywide. Starting next month, new applicants must obtain certification from either the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, an accredited non-profit organization that develops performance assessments for safe crane operations nationwide, or an organization accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or the American National Standards Institute.”
“Since 2008, we have adopted more than 25 new construction safety laws, increased inspector training and created new specialized units to ensure construction is safer today than at any other time in our history,” said Mayor Bloomberg in a statement. “Now, we’re implementing stringent licensing requirements for crane operators– including tougher, modernized national exams, new training courses and mandated re-testing. Together with the experience requirements we are creating to ensure New York’s unique work environment is taken into account, these initiatives will make construction sites across our city even safer.”
We have reached out to the union for a response, but so far have yet to receive one.
The rest of the release is below:
“As construction methods continue to evolve, our testing methods must evolve with them to ensure that crane operators have the expertise necessary to safely operate increasingly specialized equipment,” said Deputy Mayor Holloway. “Requiring a comprehensive national exam, and pairing it with rigorous experience and coursework requirements that take New York City’s unique environment into account, we will continue to have the best-qualified, best trained people transforming our skyline and strengthening our infrastructure.”
“A better exam means a better crane operator on the job site,” said Commissioner LiMandri. “Veterans of any profession can suffer from complacency, but in the world of high-risk crane operations, it can lead to catastrophe. That’s why we’re proposing a new exam that will challenge the knowledge and skills of any crane operator and ensure he or she has the proper qualifications. Crane accidents in New York and other cities in recent years have showed us all that more oversight is needed over this industry, not less.”
Licenses for crane operators – known as Hoisting Machine Operators – are divided into three classes: Class C for small mobile cranes, Class A for medium-sized mobile and tower cranes and Class B for a crane of any size or capacity. The new requirements will go into effect 30 calendar days after the rule is published in the City Record on April 26, 2012. The new requirements already currently apply to applicants seeking a Class C license, and individuals who currently hold active Class A and B licenses will be required meet these requirements and obtain national certification by July 1, 2013 to retain their licenses.
On any construction site, crane operators are responsible for delivering materials throughout the property, and in such a dense urban environment as New York, it is critical to ensure these operators have the proper skills and experience to safely perform such work. Under the new requirements, new applicants seeking a Hoisting Machine Operator license will also be required to complete a 40-hour training course that covers New York City’s construction and safety regulations and unique environment, undergo a criminal background check, demonstrate physical fitness and comply with a substance abuse policy. Upon license renewal every three years, applicants must complete an 8-hour refresher training course.
To obtain a Class C license, an applicant must have:
· At least two years of experience within three years prior to application under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed Hoisting Machine Operator in New York City or another jurisdiction in the United States that regulates crane operators, such as California and Chicago;
· At least one of the two years of experience must be undertaken in New York City or in an area of comparable urban density in the United States.
· Applicants for Class C licenses currently must also prove they have performed up to 100 crane set-ups.
To obtain a Class A license, an applicant must have:
· Three years of experience within five years prior to application under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed Hoisting Machine Operator in New York City or another jurisdiction in the United States that regulates crane operators.
· At least one of the three years must be undertaken in New York City, and the remaining two years must be undertaken in New York City or in an area of comparable urban density; or
· If an applicant has held a Hoisting Machine Operator license issued by a jurisdiction in the United States for at least 10 years and can demonstrate seven of those 10 years of experience were in an area of comparable urban density.
· Applicants will also be required to perform up to 100 crane set-ups, with 25 of the 100 set-ups on medium-sized mobile and/or tower cranes.
To obtain a Class B license, an applicant must:
· Hold a Class A license in New York City; and
· Have two years of experience under the direct and continuing supervision of a Class B Hoisting Machine Operator in New York City.
Unlike the City’s current exam, which is administered by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, applicants will be required to pass written and practical exams by certification organizations that are tailored to the specific equipment for which the license is to be issued. These organizations, such as the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, will administer the exams at their facilities or facilities approved by the organization, and these certifications will demonstrate that an applicant has adequate knowledge and experience using the appropriate crane model.
The Department of Buildings will require an applicant to submit documentation certifying compliance with all of these requirements, and failure to provide accurate and truthful information could result in rejection of a license application as well as possible criminal charges. The Department will also periodically audit a random sample of the applications submitted and pursue disciplinary action against those found to have submitted fraudulent information, or who do not otherwise meet the necessary requirements. For more information on licensing procedures, visit www.nyc.gov/buildings.
Since 2008, the Department of Buildings has increased its oversight of the crane industry with expanded inspection checklists, more than 4,000 hours of training for crane inspectors and several new laws and requirements, such as:
· Requirement of detailed plans for the erection/dismantling of a tower crane;
· Requirement of a safety meeting before the erection/dismantling of a tower crane;
· Requirement of tower crane workers to receive a 30-hour safety training course;
· Requirement of an inspection and certification by the engineer of record prior to jump or climbing;
· Prohibition of the use of slings unless recommended by the manufacturer;
· Requirement of a third-party engineer inspection of a tower crane before an approval for erection; and
· Requirement of a 5-year history of a tower crane before an approval for erection.