Crane Safety Debate Could Heat-Up in Houston

One local official says she’ll consider suggesting city crane inspections and regulations after Friday’s fatal accident here in Houston. A huge, 30-story crane crashed to the ground Friday. The accident killed four contract workers and injured seven others. Jack Williams reports.

The city of Houston requires permits and inspections for about every project you can think of. The list includes new construction, repairs, additions, demolitions. You name it, the city inspects it. Except for huge construction cranes. Sue Lovell is a Houston city councilwoman.

“We have elevators that we expect the building owners to have an inspection done and then send us a copy of that inspection. In some way, someone needs to be inspecting these cranes and making sure that they’re safe.”

Only 15 states and just a few cities have any sort of crane inspections or permitting processes. Texas has never required inspections. OSHA inspects cranes, but usually only when a complaint has been filed.

“Houston right now is booming and there are a lot of cranes that are all over the city, which is good for us. But if there’s not standards and they’re not inspected, then they can be a public safety hazard, and so I think there should be some sort of inspections or standards put in place.”

But councilman Mike Sullivan, says he’s not surprised the city doesn’t inspect cranes. He says cranes at industrial sites, like the Lyondell-Bassel plant, aren’t the city’s business.

“These are very, very complicated mechanical devices. There are weights and welds and different types of metallurgical material that make-up these cranes, operators that operate them and different types of loads. I haven’t seen that type of expertise within the city of Houston, and I don’t mean that in a negative way, that type of expertise that would make me think, by-golly gee, we ought to be inspecting these things.”

The crane that collapsed what going to be used for a maintenance project at the plant. Officials with OSHA say they don’t talk about investigations before they’re done. They do say, by law, they have six months to complete the probe here. Investigators started that process over the weekend.