Though the construction boom is healthy for our economy, this type of work is often dangerous and prone to serious accidents. Construction cranes can be especially deadly. And they’ve been in the news a lot lately due to several major accidents.
Multiple Deaths in Crane Accidents
A tall crane in Seattle toppled into the streets earlier this year killing four people and injuring three others. It was a shocking accident that made national headlines. At that time, safety organizations began talking about improving safety regulations for cranes.
Then in June, a giant crane crashed into an apartment building in downtown Dallas due to high winds. One person was killed and several others injured. An intensive investigation is underway.
Although the causes of these accidents are under investigation, most crane incidents involve some form of human error. The crane itself is rarely at fault or weak.
Crane inspector James Pritchett from Alabama comments on the types of human error he sees: “That can come in many forms, [including] not knowing how to operate a crane properly, not inspecting it properly or not maintaining it properly.”
He has investigated dozens of accidents and has seen many types of problems. Pritchett has a long background in operating cranes and training others to do so. He knows what it takes to operate one safely. He added that he rarely saw a crane accident where human error was not somehow involved.
Preliminary reports about the accident in Dallas show that the crane itself had some type of weakness in its construction. The steel was not as sturdy as it should have been. Another factor was the way the crane had been positioned.
Crane operators were supposed to lock the crane down but leave it where it would sway with the wind. This is called “weathervaning.” The operator must release the swing brake to reduce wind resistance and allow the crane to move with the wind instead of against it.
Bigge Crane Company, the owners of the Dallas crane, blamed the wind. A sudden storm hit Dallas on a Sunday with wind speeds at around 70mph, which is almost Category 1 hurricane wind speeds.
New Regulations Should Help
After the Seattle accident, New OSHA regulations went into effect that would improve training for crane operators and teach them more about the fundamentals of safe crane operations.
There’s a much higher level of training required now before a crane operator can be certified. Authorities believe that this will reduce accidents and make construction sites much safer.
Construction crane accidents have been in the news in the past as well. In March of 2008, six construction workers and one bystander were killed in New York City when a giant crane collapsed. Just 10 days later, another accident occurred in Miami when a 20-foot crane section fell 30 stories. There were five injuries and two construction workers killed. Since those accidents, OSHA has worked with the construction industry to try and implement laws, training and additional security to prevent large-scale accidents like this.