By Ryan Takeo

A Washington State Department of Labor and Industries crane expert began an investigation Wednesday, one day after a crane cable snapped and sent a metal piece of debris flying.

No one was injured, but the debris almost hit a bicyclist.

Compass General Construction runs the site at Western Avenue and Blanchard Street. Its vice president, Bob Strum, said workers were parking the crane Tuesday when part of the cable failed.

“They were parking the crane for the night and running the cable up at the end of the day, and a part of it failed and (the debris) fell,” he said.

He added the company is also conducting its own investigation to find out what exactly happened.

The metal debris, called a block, was attached to the cable. The block fell near workers below and then to the nearby street, where it almost hit bicyclist Chris Behrens.

“I was riding my bike up the hill and I heard a loud snap,” recalled Behrens after the incident.

Compass’ L&I inspections over the last four years showed 16 of the 19 inspections had no violations. One 2016 inspection showed two ‘severe’ violations. An L&I spokesperson added context that Compass’ violations were fairly common and the resulting fines were only about $5,000 combined. One inspection is under appeal and another had a “general” violation, which is the most minor type, according to the spokesperson.

Strum said Compass has no open cases he knows of and stood by his company’s safety record.

“It’s a big part of what we do. It’s a part of everyday conversation,” he said. “There are rigorous protocols to maintain safe hoisting practices. Cranes are regularly inspected and maintained by people who that’s all they do. “

Strum added the crane was inspected the day before the incident. He declined to name the inspection company. He said the crane will stay parked for the time being.

“We’re going to have the manufacturer come out to inspect it,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are going to go through it very carefully and we’ll just leave it parked until all of that’s been done.”

A carpenters union recently picketed the construction site, claiming safety concerns.

Compass says it believes the union was and is trying to recruit new members. Several workers did not have the same safety concerns the union described.

The L&I investigation is expected to take about six months.

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