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Can Florida-Wide Crane Safety Regulations Prevent Construction Accidents?

It’s no secret that construction accidents are a major concern for the building industry. Across the country, as building projects heat up during the summer months, construction accidents are causing fractures, fatalities, burn injuries, head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other disasters. Many of these injuries leave workers unable to return to work and create workers’ compensation issues as well. Despite careful regulations and safety awareness, construction accidents still are a major concern.

This summer, many accidents have meant more focus on one specific piece of construction equipment: the crane. According to media reports, a larger-than-usual number of crane-related construction accidents have been occurring in New York, Miami and Las Vegas. In New York City, two crane accidents since March have resulted in nine fatalities. This is more than the total number of deaths that have been linked to cranes over the past ten years.

Crane regulations have by state and city and some areas have no regulations at all. Those areas with no regulations rely on federal crane guidelines that are nearly four decades old. Experts say that these regulations do not reflect the technological changes that have occurred in the industry. Some states do not have accurate figures about the number of cranes operating in the state and do not require training for workers who use the cranes.

In early 2008, Florida lawmakers considered and ultimately rejected a bill which would have imposed state-wide standards for Florida’s crane operators. That legislation was introduced after a crane accident killed two people in Miami. Despite support from the North Florida Associated Builders and Contractors, the legislation failed to pass. Now, the Association is noting that further crane accidents suggest the importance of Florida-wide crane regulations to reduce the number of construction accidents.

Industry experts claim that many crane accidents occur when tower frames are set up or dismantled. They claim that if operators are trained in the processes, the number of construction accidents involving cranes could drop. With downtown Miami undergoing more than $6 billion worth of ongoing construction projects in the commercial building industry alone, there is obviously some concern about crane safety.

While many contractors supported the bill, some contractors and crane owners claimed that the legislation could put them out of business. Some policymakers agreed. Another controversy surrounding the bill was whether counties would be given the right to adopt tougher standards than the Florida-wide established guidelines. Many in the construction industry claimed that counties should have this ability, since conditions in each of Florida’s counties vary, and each county may have different risks. However, others claim that individual county rules would make work much harder for contractors and would cost crane owners some jobs.