Fines and criminal investigation for crane incident

Washington state has fined three companies for their roles in fatal tower crane collapse in Seattle in April.

The incident, which took four lives – two men working on the crane and two people sitting in their cars on the public highway - was described as “totally avoidable”, meanwhile the Seattle police department has opened a criminal investigation. The information was released by the US Department of Labor and Industries yesterday. See Fatal tower crane incident in Seattle.

It confirmed that the crane had come down after it was hit by a strong gust of wind after the team taking it down had already removed all of the pins/bolts between the tower sections in order to save time. But most importantly, they had completely ignored the manufacturer’s instructions which clearly state that the pins should only be removed on one section at a time after it has been secured to the crane taking the tower down. According to investigators the manufacturer’s instructions for crane removal were not reviewed at the crew’s pre-task meeting that morning.

The investigation also revealed that as the wind levels increased the mobile crane that was being used to remove the tower crane was forced to suspend work due to the high wind levels. The disassembly crew, decided that while they waited for the winds to die down, they would use the time to remove the pins from all of the sections in the tower and loosen the bolts attaching the tower base to its foundation. A 50 mph gust then caused the crane to sway and collapse into the street.

The investigation report stated: “This practice appears to have been common in the industry, even though it had led to fatal collapses before.” A spokesman added “The incident that occurred was totally avoidable. If the companies on site had followed the rules, the crane would not have fallen.”

The biggest fine of $70,000, was handed down to tower crane rental company Morrow Equipment, which had supplied the crane to general contractor GLY, while Northwest Tower Crane Service which provided the crane dismantling crew, was fined $12,000 and GLY $25,000.

It was said that Morrow was most culpable because it was the expert on site and should have known and ensured that the manufacturer’s instructions were followed, while the other companies were cited for not having a supervisor present, inadequate training or other violations.

The companies have 15 days to appeal against the fines.


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