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Washington fines three companies for Seattle crane collapse

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Oct. 18 (UPI) — Washington state has fined three companies a combined $100,000 in connection to their roles in a fatal crane collapse in downtown Seattle in April.

On Thursday, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries completed its six-month investigation into the incident and determined the crane’s collapse was caused by wind gusts, but was the result of human error and could have been avoided.

“The incident that occurred was totally avoidable,” Labor and Industries Director Joel Sacks said during a press conference. “If the companies onsite followed the rules that were in place the crane would not have fallen and four people would not have lost their lives.”

On April 27, a crane that was in the process of being dismantled collapsed, killing four people, including two men working on the crane and two people, a man and a woman, who were crushed in nearby vehicles.

The investigation found that the companies had not followed the manufacture’s procedures for dismantling the structure and prematurely removed nearly all of the crane’s pins and sleeves, making it vulnerable to collapse, the department said.

“With the pins removed, the tower was significantly weakened, making it susceptible to the 45-plus mph wind gusts that toppled it,” the department said in a release. “When the pins are in place, tower cranes can withstand much stronger gusts.”

The department investigated five companies, fining three: Morrow Equipment, GLY Construction and Northwest Tower Cranes Services.

Morrow received the heaviest fine at $70,00 for one willful serious violation as it had the highest level of expertise at the job site, supplied the crane and approved the removal of its pins.

GLY, with three serious violations, was fined $25,200 for not having a qualified supervisor and other personnel on the site at all times during the crane’s disassembly, not ensuring the manufacture’s procedures were followed and not accounting for the weather.

Northwest Tower Crane received a fine of $12,000 for three serious violations for not following the manufacture’s procedures, ensuring workers understood their duties and not properly training its employees.

“Our expectations are clear: Follow the manufacture’s procedures and there has to be a single person on site who is in charge, knows the rules and makes sure the rules are followed,” Sacks said. “Our conclusion of the investigation is clear.”

The companies have 15 days to comply, and the money received goes towards helping the families of workers who lost their lives on the job site, the department said.

In a statement, Northwest Tower Crane said the effect of the incident “will be felt for some time and we will use it to strengthen and safeguard our employees and the communities in which they work.”

The company said it has cooperated with authorities during the investigation and has implemented changes upon their findings.

“We are deeply concerned by what happened in Seattle, and our hearts continue to go out to the victims and their families,” the company said.

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