Saturday, May 12, 2007

L&I on Crane Collapse

The Washington State Dept. of Labor and Industries issued a report yesterday on the crane collapse in Bellevue last November that damaged three buildings and killed a man in his apartment. L&I found that the cause of the collapse was a faulty base for the tower crane -- it was attached to steel I-beams welded together and attached to four concrete pillars, rather than to a cement foundation. L&I fined the engineering firm that created the base $5600 for failing to ensure the design met the recommendations of the crane manufacturer and fined the general contractor $5600 for failing to conduct regular inspections and $3600 for attaching oversize signs to the crane. Blame for crane collapse affirmed, Seattle Times, May 12, 2007.

The collapse of the crane prompted the Legislature this year to enact new laws establishing a construction-crane-certification program and a crane-operator-certification program, which will be administered by L&I.

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[Steve] Cant [assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health] said L&I specifically asked that the new construction-crane legislation include a provision that, in any non-standard tower crane base, an independent professional engineer must review and approve the plans.
L&I investigation: Flawed engineering design caused tower-crane collapse, L&I press release, May 11, 2007.

The new legislation is 2007 Wash. Laws Ch. 27, effective Jan. 1, 2010. It will be codified in RCW 49.17.

The administrative fines will not be the end of the story. The Seattle Times story mentioned two attorneys who represent the family of Matthew Ammon, the man who was killed in his apartment. (They are Matthew Knopp and Michael Wampold, both of Peterson Young Putra. Mike Wampold is also a Trial Ad instructor.) Since the family has retained counsel, it is probably planning to sue. I would also expect suits from the owners of the three buildings that were damaged by the crane collapse -- and maybe the owners of the original project, which must have been held up for some time by the collapse and the investigation.

Photo: Tower crane in Hood Canal Bridge project, WSDOT. (This is not the crane that collapsed.)

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