OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - State Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields and construction industry leaders have begun working on new regulations for heavy equipment operators after three fatal accidents this year involving cranes or lift devices.
Fields, who has been reviewing such regulations in 14 other states, met with industry experts last week. Another meeting is planned for December to prepare groundwork that could lead to legislation to authorize a new state law.
On Aug. 20 in Oklahoma City, an aerial basket worker died after the heavy machine toppled. On July 24, also in Oklahoma City, a man sitting in a parked car watching a crane operator lift a church steeple died when the crane toppled.
In Sapulpa, on March 28, a man died when he was caught in machinery while trying to hook a dolly to a crane.
Charlyne Stafford's 79-year-old husband, Winnfred Stafford, died in the July accident. She was sitting beside her husband but survived.
Stafford, also 79, thinks the state should oversee heavy equipment operators, requiring them to obtain licenses.
“It seems to me that there should be some provisions put into place to operate this kind of machinery more safely,” she said.
“I would not want anyone to go through what we had to,” Charlyne Stafford said.
Randy Sudik, president of Allied Steel Construction Co., also supports licensing.
“You can't work on a toilet unless you are a licensed plumber, but you can take a piece of heavy equipment and work without a license,” Sudik said.
A crane or aerial lift operator's license would require a written test, training, experience and a physical test.
Fields said he thinks construction companies foresee tighter restrictions ahead.
“For the industry it's kind of like being a surfer who sees a wave,” he said. “If you don't get on it you're going to crash, and if you do, you'll have a smooth ride.”