Judge halts enforcement of crane safety law

03 June 2008

A judge in Florida, US, has issued an order to temporarily halt enforcement of portions of a tower crane safety ordinance passed by the Miami-Dade County Commission in April 2008.

The injunction to delay enforcement of the new crane safety rules was filed on 1 May 2008 by Florida crane owners and construction organizations that disputed the Miami-Dade ordinance, determining the law to be in dispute with Federal OSHA crane safety regulations, according to news reports and other sources.

The ordinance was passed after two fatal tower crane accidents earlier in the spring in Florida. At the centre of the dispute is the jurisdiction of crane safety laws.

The group that filed the lawsuit argued that under the new ordinance, none of the approximately 200 tower cranes in use in Miami-Dade County would meet the requirements, according to a source with one of the crane owner organizations.

U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro issued the restraining order on Tuesday 22 May 2008. The Court Order Granting Preliminary Injunction stated: “The Court’s ultimate conclusions are as follows:

“(1) Plaintiffs’ claim that the Crane Ordinance is pre-empted by the OSH Act is ripe for review, while Plaintiffs’ procedural and substantive due process claims and dormant commerce clause claim are not ripe for review.

“(2) Regardless of whether the Ordinance directly conflicts with the OSH Act and OSHA regulations in all of the respects asserted by Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs have established a likelihood of prevailing on their claim that the Crane Ordinance is a dual impact law that directly, substantially, and specifically regulates occupational safety and health, and is pre-empted by the OSH Act to the extent that it is a non-approved state regulation of occupational safety and health issues governed by the federal standards prescribed in the applicable OSHA regulations, 29 C.F.R. §§ 1926.550 and 1926.552. The pre-empted provisions of the Crane Ordinance may be severed, and the remaining provisions of the Ordinance may be saved from pre-emption.

“(3) The federal occupational safety and health standards prescribed in 29 C.F.R. §§ 1926.550 and 1926.552, which require employers engaged in construction work to comply with the manufacturer’s specifications and limitations applicable to the operation of all cranes and hoists – including compliance with DIN wind load standards – do not constitute an unlawful delegation of legislative power to an interested private party.

“(4) Plaintiffs have met their burden of showing that a preliminary injunction should issue because (a) there is a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits; (b) there is a substantial threat of suffering irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted; (c) the threatened injury to Plaintiffs outweighs the threatened harm the injunction may cause Defendant; and “(d) granting the preliminary injunction will serve the public interest.”

Florida lawmakers have twice failed to pass state-wide crane safety regulations, including a bill that was initially passed by the state Senate in 2008 but later failed.


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