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Another deadly crane collapse

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 30, 2008 10:08 AM

Top story right now on all the cable news stations: another deadly crane collapse in NYC that reportedly has claimed two lives. (Update: 1 dead, two seriously injured.) The NYPost has extensive coverage. NY’s Fox 5 is livestreaming. The accident is the second in 2 1/2 months in NY and comes on the heels of crane regulation revisions by the city just this week. Miami-Dade County is in the middle of heated debate and litigation over post-accident rules. Maryland, Washington, and Indiana are also drafting tighter regs.

It would be helpful for journalists to report what the background rates on crane-related deaths and injuries are. Also, the coverage should distinguish between types of accidents (human error, mechanical failure, etc.). Here’s one report on offshore crane safety that covers 1995-98. Here’s an ABC report with a little more info on stats and causes, among which they mention illegal alien labor and corporate short cuts:

At least 43 people died while working construction in New York in 2006, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, up 87 percent from the year before when 23 people died.

Across the United States, construction ranks as the most dangerous industry, representing about 20 percent of all work-related fatalities, according to federal statistics.

Deaths rose from 1,131 in 2003 to 1,226 in 2006. By comparison, 836 workers died in mining accidents last year, and 447 died in manufacturing. The government reports between six and seven construction deaths per 1,000 workers.

Nationwide, deaths from falling off scaffolding remained steady at about 88 per year…

…The rise in construction fatalities can be explained by a deadly mix of untrained immigrant workers, lax attention to safety regulations and profit-minded contractors who cut corners in all areas from labor to materials.

“There is a tremendous pressure, particularly in construction, to put pressure on workers to be productive and to take short cuts,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Fines for employers who violate regulations are low — averaging only about $1,600 an incident, according to Shufro. When a worker is killed, the maximum punishment is six months in jail.

“Fines for harassing a burro on federal land are greater,” he said. “But they do the best they can with limited resources.”

Bovis Lend Lease, the company that is handling the Trump project, released a statement to the Associated Press saying they would launch an investigation of the worker’s death.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased concrete worker, and our prayers are with the injured workers,” said Mary Costello, company spokesman.

What is most startling in these accidents is the disproportionate number of immigrant deaths — and not only in New York, where illegal workers make up 86 percent of all fatalities.

While urban areas are facing a building boom, more rural areas are feeling the effects of a slowing economy, according to construction experts. Unions and employers say they face increased competition from those who hire cheap, illegal immigrants.

Here’s another round-up of links to recent crane regulation moves.

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