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Lawmakers consider higher safety standards for cranes in Washington

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee is considering stronger enforcement and higher fines in cases of serious safety violations.

Editors note: The above video outlines the investigation into the April 2019 crane collapse. 

In the wake of a deadly crane collapse, Washington lawmakers are considering stronger enforcement and higher fines for safety violations. 

The Senate Labor & Commerce Committee held a work session on crane safety on Nov. 20 to address current standards.

On April 17, a crane that was being dismantled in South Lake Union collapsed, killing four people.

The state Department of Labor & Industries found that three companies committed serious safety violations, including prematurely removing parts of the crane, inadequately training staff, and lacking supervisors on site. The three companies -- Morrow Equipment, GLY Construction, and NW Tower Crane -- were issued fines ranging from $12,000 to $70,000.

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This is not the first time legislation of this kind has been considered by the committee. After a 2006 crane collapse in Bellevue Legislature tightened the state’s crane safety rules so that they match or exceed the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) rules.

Lawmakers acknowledge that construction cranes won’t be going away any time soon, and that regulations are crucial to ensure their operation is safe and properly regulated.

“The 3,000 cranes being used in construction and maritime industries around our state are a good sign of a growing economy,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the chair of the committee. “But we need to make sure that we’re constantly improving oversight to keep our construction sites safe.”

Five days after the Senate work session, a mobile crane toppled over in Kirkland injuring one worker. The Department of Labor & Industries is investigating the collapse but notes despite increased regulations, similar crashes to that of April’s continue to occur.