January 2014

Virtually all us know getting older isn’t easy. Little by little, things we used to be able to do without much effort and with seemingly boundless energy evolve into aching back, fatigue-laced ventures.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg feels the same way … about cranes. Back in early December, he and Building Commissioner Robert LiMandri announced new legislation to limit the age of cranes operating in the five boroughs. The bill would prohibit mobile and tower cranes manufactured more than 25 years ago from being used on a job site. But it’s not just based on when the crane was originally manufactured; the new rule also states that if any of the crane’s components are 25 years or older, then that crane cannot be used, either.

The rule makes sense. Newer cranes offer advanced safety features when compared with their older brethren, and while crane safety is a very important issue on every job site that requires them, in a densely populated urban setting such as New York City, one could argue that safety is even more important when considering the higher probability of collateral damage and danger when a crane fails.

This new rule, however, is more of a long-term fix than an immediate boost in safety. The average age of a tower crane in New York City is 9.2 years, so we’re looking at sort of a Baby Boom Generation retirement situation down the road when en masse a slew of them will have to be retired. This, of course, will have a major financial impact on companies as they begin having to phase in new cranes. Hard to say at this stage whether that would cost jobs or higher across-the-board bids for projects, but the savings from lawsuits and loss of work from crane accidents alone, though not measured on paper if they don’t happen (the saying goes that you can’t prove a negative), would, in an abstract way, offset the cost of new equipment.

Overall, Mayor Bloomberg can be a bit bullish on pursuing big government solutions to problems (see soda), but he’s on track with this regulatory proposal. An aging crane is not something you want dangling over your head.

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