Monday, June 1, 2009

May 30th, 2009

New York, NY The problems that led to the collapse of the Kodiak tower crane last year are becoming clearer. A story out of the New York Daily News today discusses emails between the Chinese weld repair company and New York Cranes. Link None of it is surprising but well worth learning from and being sure that we are all doing the right things to protect ourselves, our clients, and the public.
The brief of the story is that the Kodiak Crane was taken down in Times Square in an emergency about a year prior to it's collapse. The 3 inch thick steel transition between the flat horizontal and the vertical round section in the turntable had cracked and when the area was tensioned by the back moment of the crane it allowed daylight through. It was noticed by the oiler, inspected by the city and promptly removed. This area of the crane is subjected to the most stress. It's under shear during slewing, tension or compression depending on load and jib position, and cyclical stresses as the crane unloads and/or stops it's slewing.
After the crane was taken down the shopping of prices to repair the weld began. Avon Bearings of Ohio bid $120,000 to repair the weld and a Chinese company RTR bid $21,710. New York Cranes chose to use RTR. The proper way to repair this weld is to remove the entire weld on the 8 foot in diameter turntable. The parent metals would have to be beveled, cleaned, inspected, possibly UT'd, held in place in a jig, and the metal pre-heated as the weld is laid in layer after layer. It's time consuming and expensive. More importantly it's one of those welds where you want that guy that takes his time gets 100% of the slag out of each pass and doesn't claim that he'll just "burn through it". A weld of this size and importance should have been UT'd as well. The real cost of not doing it right... life, your business, life savings, public embarrassment, Jail?
RTR apparently was concerned about the weld quality. It's been claimed in the Daily News Story that extra money was paid to ease RTR's concerns about the quality of their own welds. Even better the company's quality of workmanship was called into question a month prior to the collapse on another crane. The former Department of Buildings Chief Engineer called into question the weld repair on the Kodiak and the crane was allowed to continue to operate by her successor whom was a former employee of New York Cranes.Link
Recusal may have been the proper decision. Hell, simple requirement of 3rd party UT of the weld would have found the problem and 2 people would still be alive.
The cost of the weld repair may have seemed like the right business decision at the time, but Kodiak Cranes are now heading towards being worthless. Another one in New York was removed from a site and a Liebherr 540 was put up in it's place. Imagine the costs of the swap, re-engineering of the base and tie-ins, and you'll get the scope of the desire to have a Kodiak on site. Even if it cost a million, get it off my site was the attitude. New York Cranes will be lucky to survive this lawsuit and black eye. If anyone can do it, it's a New York construction company because the nepotism runs rampant. If the accusations of payoffs are true, James Lomma may find himself facing jail time. Heads have to roll after two deadly and high profile, and avoidable accidents in New York.
Take that extra step to be sure that you are doing everything properly. Even if it costs more in the beginning, this story is a great example of the costs of not doing things properly.

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