Last November a 210 foot crane collapsed in Bellevue, WA and killed a man, causing heavy damage to three buildings in the process. It was considered “one of the worst construction disasters in state history.” This accident is the catalyst for new crane safety rules and guidelines.
The need for standardization in crane and heavy equipment operating safety is not new and has been analyzed before. Matt Klabacka, President and Co-Founder of the National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools has long foreseen the need for national certification of heavy equipment operators and greater safety training. “The future is going to be certification,” Klabacka stated, and further explained that NAHETS “is an effort to standardize the heavy-equipment industry… right now it’s very unregulated.” This is one of the key reasons for his decision to create NAHETS.
By 2010 it is expected that increased crane safety laws will be implemented in the state of Washington. Governor Chris Gregoire has already expressed her approval of the new laws and is committed to sign them in when the time comes. Washington state legislators were surprised to learn that there are no training, background checks, or drug testing requirements for crane operators. The NCCCO-National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators reported that only 14 states currently have such requirements, with many more in the process of adopting such requirements.
The new safety laws are expected to certify not only the crane operators, but the cranes as well, due to the belief that the recent accident was caused by a failure in the base of the crane. Operators will be expected to have a certain number of documented training hours and pass certain testing requirements. Similarly, the cranes themselves will be tested for structural problems. Such laws will not only increase the safety of crane workers, but for all workers.
With crane accidents still occurring, as well as other heavy equipment accidents, there will no doubt be a necessity for improving safety standards in the industry. The example of Washington State is simply a foreshadow of what is to come.