Three firms fined total of $107,200 for fatal Google crane collapse in Seattle

Three firms have been fined a total of $107,200 for the collapse of a crane while it was being dismantled at a Google campus project, resulting in the deaths of four people in April this year.

A six-month review by the Department of Labour & Industries (L&I), found that the firms were guilty of safety violations at Google’s campus at Fairview Avenue and Mercer Street in Seattle, where two workers at the top of the crane died and two died in cars below.

The tower crane was owned by Morrow Equipment LLC, which leased it to GLY Construction; Northwest Tower Crane Services was in charge of dismantling.

Morrow Equipment LLC was found to have failed to follow the crane maker’s procedures, in this case approving the removal of pins.

In the manufacturer’s procedures it says to remove pins "for each individual section being dismantled", with Morrow approving the premature removal of "nearly all of the pins and sleeves that helped hold the crane together", according to L&I.

The tower was weakened from the removal of the pins, making it susceptible to strong winds.

Morrow was fined $70,000 and was deemed to have caused a wilful violation, meaning that an "employer either knowingly ignored a legal requirement or was indifferent to employee safety".

L&I fined GLY Construction $25,200 for three violations: not having a qualified supervisor and other personnel on site at all times during the disassembly operations, not ensuring the manufacturer’s procedures were followed and not accounting for weather conditions.

Northwest Tower Crane Services was fined $12,000 for three violations: not following the manufacturer’s procedures, not ensuring workers understood their assigned duties and inadequate training of workers.

The firms have 15 business days to appeal the decisions.

Money raised through fines such as these will go into a compensation supplemental pension fund for injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

Two other firms were investigated but not charged.

Joel Sacks, L&I’s director, said: "This tragic event must not be repeated. We expect all companies to follow manufacturers’ procedures and have a single point of authority overseeing crane assembly or disassembly. There has to be one person on site who knows the rules and is in charge."

Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director, who oversees the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said: "When crane safety regulations are not followed in this industry, it can be catastrophic.

"Cranes are safe when manufacturers’ procedures and our rules are followed. We’re sharing the lessons learned from this tragic incident and are already seeing signs that it’s increasing safety in the industry."

Image: Seattle Fire Department photograph published on Twitter shows the crane on the street and damage to the building

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