Miami

Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.

MIAMI-On the heels of two fatal crane accidents in New York City and Miami in the last few weeks, real estate professionals throughout Florida, and possibly the nation, are paying close attention to the recently passed Miami-Dade County controversial crane ordinance that goes into effect today, March 28.

The commercial real estate industry will surely be affected by the certification and inspection ordinance that is the only crane regulation giving city officials the power to consider tower cranes and personnel hoists as “permanent” structures. Several cities, including New York City and Los Angeles, have ordinances that consider cranes as temporary structures, not permanent.

As permanent structures, cranes are now subject to the same standards as high-rise buildings despite the fact that they would be removed from a construction site after a project is completed.

The ordinance, proposed by the Crane and Heavy Equipment Advisory Committee led by County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, came about because of an increased number of tragic accidents and fatalities over the last few years during Miami’s construction boom. The urgency of the ordinance was clear when two more fatalities and multiple injuries occurred in Miami on Tuesday, March 25 when a construction crane dove 30 stories in Downtown Miami.

“I don’t know if implementation of the ordinance would have prevented this latest accident, but at least we would have had all the inspections and other safety measures in place,” Edmonson tells GlobeSt. “It is our duty to protect the workers and residents of our county and to provide a safer working environment.”

Meant to improve job-site safety, the ordinance requires regular inspections of crane equipment by trained experts and mandates county certification of crane operators. The ordinance also specifies that companies have a plan for hurricane preparedness, which is already part of the safety manual on most job sites.

However, some building experts express concern that provisions in the ordinance have the potential to negatively impact the construction industry by delaying timetables and increasing costs.

“Fifteen states have a statewide law on crane certification,” says Len Mills, executive VP/CEO of the South Florida Chapter of Associated General Contractors. His organization supports the proposal for a statewide law on crane operator certification and crane inspector certification using nationally accepted standards on crane safety.

“The Miami-Dade ordinance goes beyond that and they give authority at the ‘discretion’ of the building official or inspector at making or perhaps even shutting down a construction site. We should not be giving ‘discretion’ to public servants,” Mills says, adding that these officials might be able to put hundreds of people involved in a construction site out of work.

“It’s a matter of safety,” says Gregory Teslia, president of Crane Safety & Inspections Inc., based in Coral Springs. “There are people saying what the negatives are, and they are not focusing on the safety aspect.”

A statewide certification bill has been introduced in Tallahassee, but that bill only addresses tower cranes, says Teslia, who suggests that legislators look at the guidelines of the Dade County ordinance. He says if the new ordinance didn’t include the option to consider cranes a permanent structure, it would be perfect.

“All this ordinance is doing is following what the industry standards say and what the manufacturer recommendations are,” he says. “All of it is to benefit everyone in the construction industry and the general public that will be in the area around the construction sites.”

Existing cranes and construction sites will have one year to comply, and the crane operator certification will take effect Jan. 1, 2009.