State Agency Blames Subcontractor for Fatal Crane Collapse


The failure of a subcontractor to properly train and supervise its employees led to the collapse of a 16-story construction crane that killed five people in San Francisco in November, state regulators said Wednesday.

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health blamed the accident, which also injured22 people, on The Erection Co., which was operating the crane when it plunged about 200 feet onto a crowded downtown intersection during the morning rush hour.

The state agency, also known as Cal/OSHA, issued 12 citations for 25 safety violations and levied $79,845 in fines on the Kirkland, Wash., company.

At the time of the accident, The Erection Co. was working for general contractor Swinerton & Walberg of San Francisco to help build a new high-rise headquarters for the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. Swinerton has not been cited in the incident.


An Erection Co. spokesman said fault for the accident really rests with the crane’s owner, American Pecco, and its manufacturer, Peiner Co. Those outfits have not been cited, although one state official said Cal/OSHA still is investigating American Pecco.

Four Erection Co. employees were atop the crane, trying to jack it up one floor, when it toppled and fell, gouging nearby skyscrapers and landing on several vehicles on the streets below. The four employees died in the accident, as did the driver of a school bus crushed by falling debris.

Regulators said direct blame for the accident rests with the four dead men, but added that The Erection Co. shares substantially in the blame for putting the giant latticework structure under the control of unqualified employees.

“Our investigation has concluded that the crane collapse was the result of several unsafe acts by untrained and improperly supervised employees,” said Hamilton Fairburn, deputy field operations chief for the state safety agency.