$20k fine for crane wind violation

Crane over 608 W 40th Street. Image Credit: Google Maps.

Crane engineer failed to follow procedure for securing cranes during high winds. Matheau Chaudanson was a supervising engineer at a construction site located at 608 West 40th Street, Manhattan. One of Chaudanson’s responsibilities was to monitor wind speeds and direct the out-of-service configuration of crawler cranes in order to ensure safety.  Chaudanson, in anticipation of wind speeds of 60 miles per hour, participated in a meeting to discuss crawler crane configurations on February 25, 2019.

According to the wind action plan, the crane’s boom and jib, which are the top part of the crane’s hinge, should have been lowered to the ground when the predicted top wind speeds will reach 60 m.p.h by the time the wind gusts reached 20 to 25 m.p.h. Instead, Chaudanson ordered the crawler cranes to be placed in a jackknifed out-of-service configuration, with the top part of the crane still in the air at a 63 to70-degree angle. Chaudanson said that he believed the wind speeds would only reach 53 m.p.h.. A Buildings inspector visited the site at 10:00 a.m. on February 25th and found that the wind gusts were exceeding 56 m.p.h. but the cranes were parked to withstand lesser gusts. The inspector issued Chaudanson two $10,000 summonses for providing inadequate safety measures for the use of crawler cranes.

At a hearing before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, Chaudanson asserted that he should not have been held responsible and claimed that he was not at the wind action meeting. Although Buildings relied on forecasts predicting 60 m.p.h. winds, Chaudanson claimed he relied on separate forecasts showing wind speeds would not exceed 60 m.p.h.. In support of this assertion, Chaudanson submitted reports from the National Weather Service that demonstrated forecasts starting at noon on February 25 never exceeded 53 m.p.h.. However, the wind gusts had exceeded 53 m.p.h. earlier in the day, when the inspector was on the premises.

The OATH hearing officer relied on the issuing officer’s statements, finding that Chaudanson was properly named in the summons because he was the engineer who certified the wind action plans and directed the crane operators to park the crawlers as observed at the time of inspection. The OATH Appeals Board sustained both charges and imposed a civil penalty of $20,000.

On appeal, the Appellate Division, First Department, upheld OATH’s determination. The court agreed that Chaudanson took an active role in overseeing the maintenance and use of cranes and could not disclaim the resulting liability from that oversight.

By: Victoria Agosta (Victoria is a former CityLaw intern and New York Law School graduate, Class of 2022.)

Chaudanson v. City of N.Y., 200 A.D.3d 571, (1st Dep’t 2021).



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