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June 5, 2008

L&I halts operation of three tower cranes

TUMWATER –The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) said it has taken action to halt operation of three construction tower cranes in Seattle and Renton.

Citing possible electrical and structural problems, L&I said it asked the general contractors to take the cranes out of service because of potential safety problems. All the cranes in question were manufactured by the same company, Sun Cranes, and are the only such cranes erected in the state.

“The safety of workers and the public is of utmost importance, and that’s why we have shut down these cranes until they meet basic code requirements,” said Steve Cant, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

L&I said its action came after it received two reports from independent engineers that pointed out potential problems in the three cranes:

  • In all three cranes, the electrical systems had not been evaluated and approved for use. A faulty electrical system can potentially lead to electrical fires, motor failures or electrical shocks – some of which, under certain circumstances, could cause an electrical failure that could result in loss of braking capacity. That, in turn, could result in a dropped load or other problems. An electrical maintenance worker on one of the cranes was badly burned in January.
  • Two of the cranes, the ones in downtown Seattle, had modifications that did not meet structural integrity assurances. A portion of their towers, or “masts,” are from one manufacturer, and other portions are from another manufacturer.

An engineering analysis is currently under way to determine whether these hybrid cranes are structurally safe. Also, the electrical systems in all three cranes will be independently evaluated and certified before the cranes are returned to service.

L&I’s action is coincidental and unrelated to a crane collapse last week in New York.

L&I credited the Association of General Contractors and the general contractors involved for working cooperatively to inform the construction industry of the concerns about these cranes and to ensure that workers and the public are kept safe at all times.

L&I has open investigations with Lewis Equipment Co. of Texas, the crane distributor, and the general contractors using the cranes: Lease Crutcher Lewis, with a crane at a construction site at Fifth Avenue and Yesler Way in Seattle; Turner Construction at a site at 1823 Terry Ave. in Seattle; and Lydig Construction at a site at 400 S. 43rd St. in Renton.

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For media information: Elaine Fischer, L&I, at 360-902-5413 or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.Lni.wa.gov/News.

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