This month, 16 cranes, up to 350 feet tall, will lift 65-ton canopy trusses onto the huge Las Vegas Stadium, which is currently under construction.
Along the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas, nine more cranes lift construction materials up to 200 meters into the air as tourists and taxis drive by below.
The towering machines are a familiar sight on the southern Nevada skyline, but construction experts say tough protections are in place to prevent a crane collapse that killed four people in downtown Seattle last week.
“Because of the (safety) requirements we have, Nevada supporters can feel fairly safe using tower cranes,” said Jess Lankford, chief administrative officer for the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Agency. “Here we make a special effort to understand how it is built, who will set it up, what the erection plan is.”
Nevada requires operators of all tower cranes – which are stationary and must be assembled and dismantled for use – and some mobile cranes, national certification for the equipment they use, Lankford said. Certification typically requires hundreds of hours of supervised training on the machine.
In the Seattle accident, a crew dismantled a crane on the roof of a building that was being built as part of the new Google campus in Seattle. The mast toppled over, killing two bystanders and two ironworkers.
Any plans to erect or dismantle cranes in Nevada must be submitted to OSHA for review at least 15 business days before equipment is powered up or shut down. “Free zones” around cranes are kept free from workers and pedestrians. Any elevator that is classified as highly hazardous is shut down when the wind exceeds 35 miles per hour, and some projects shut down their cranes at much lower wind speeds.
“Safety comes first. They try to anticipate all risks, “says Willie Acosta, crane engineer at Dielco Crane Service Inc.” The larger the equipment, the greater the area of destruction can be. “
State regulations, which go beyond federal regulations, were revised after a tower crane fell into the parking lot of the Riverside Hotel-Casino in Laughlin in 1994, killing three people. In 2006, high winds brought down four tower cranes on the Hoover Dam bypass project; no one was injured, but the project was significantly delayed.
Nevada lawmakers put the certification rule on the books in 2005. Lankford said training crane operators is important even as advances in technology make the machines easier to use.
“I think the individual needs to understand the dynamics of lifting such a load,” he said.
Contact Michael Scott Davidson at email@example.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.