Officials are re-examining local laws in Houston following a fatal crane accident at LyondellBasell plant on Friday that killed four workers and injured seven others.
Crane operation is regulated in 15 states; Texas is not one of those states. The accident has prompted officials to call for more city regulation of cranes.
“With the rapid growth and construction going on in all areas of the city, I am especially concerned about crane safety said,” Councilman James Rodriguez.
Peter Brown, City Councilman, said crane regulations are long overdue, especially in cities that are experiencing new and unique construction. “It’s a public safety issue, and we’re too easygoing, we have to raise our standards and we aren’t doing so,” Brown said.
Some form of crane inspection needs to take place, said Richard Shaw, secretary-treasurer of Harris County AFL-CIO Council. “Cranes are operating all over this city and obviously there are problems.”
Houston does not currently inspect crane operation or how they are built, it does however, inspect the concrete foundation that the cranes are built on. But, it only applies to nonindustrial sites.
Plants such as LyondellBassell commonly handle safety processes within its own company according to federal rules set by OSHA.
These types of industrial sites are not usually controlled by local jurisdiction, said Andy Icken, of the Department of Public Works & Engineering.
While discussions are ongoing, officials are considering the possible certification of crane operators as an area for more regulation, said Icken. However, if the city does move to enact regulate crane operation, those laws would not apply to industrial sites.
Currently, OSHA inspects industrial cranes during random work-site inspections. Which means OSHA could find that regulations are being enforced as much as a few times each year or not at all.
About 23,000 of the country’s 4 million construction sites were inspected by OSHA last year.
More inspections aren’t necessarily the sole answer to the problem, said Greg Smith, vice president for Houston-based American Society of Safety Engineers. Good safety depends largely on personal responsibility. Having an agency looking over your shoulder should not be the only reason you do things the right way.
The construction industry as a whole is an inherently dangerous business and as such people need to be more careful.
Mobile crane operators are required to be licensed in five cities and fifteen states, according to the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, a nonprofit based in Virginia. The five cities include Chicago, Omaha, New York, New Orleans and Washington D.C.
California is currently the only state that allows the extending of license requirements to industrial sites.
IB recently reported that on June 24, the President of the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) stated before the House Education and Labor Committee that there is a need for the creation of an OSHA agency specifically dedicated to construction. The hearing was to decide if the Occupational Safety & Health Administration was adequately enforcing construction safety measures.