Cranes are essential to any construction site. Their ability to lift and move loads to great heights is unmatched by other equipment. Unfortunately, accidents do occur, resulting in worker injury and death. Recent accidents such as the Mecca crane collapse have raised questions about the safety of this equipment. Today we’ll examine the common causes of crane accidents, and what can be done to prevent them.
Common Causes of Crane Accidents:
-Crane Buckling/Collapsing: Law firm Block O’Toole & Murphy explains that despite the use of counterweights and out-rigging systems, exceeding the crane’s weight limit can cause the structure to collapse or tip over.-Crane Loads: Improper direction of crane movement or poor visibility can lead to accidents involving load strikes. The Center for Construction Research analyzed the 132 deaths by load strike between 1992 and 2006, and found that 32% were loading and unloading, while another 32% were workers not involved with crane operations at all.
-Crane Buckling/Collapsing: Law firm Block O’Toole & Murphy explains that despite the use of counterweights and out-rigging systems, exceeding the crane’s weight limit can cause the structure to collapse or tip over.
-Crane Loads: Improper direction of crane movement or poor visibility can lead to accidents involving load strikes. The Center for Construction Research analyzed the 132 deaths by load strike between 1992 and 2006, and found that 32% were loading and unloading, while another 32% were workers not involved with crane operations at all.
-Improper Assembly: Schmidt & Clark explains that crane assembly and disassembly should follow manufacturer specification. Failure to do so can puts the integrity of the entire crane at risk. Improper building of stabilizing structures such as blocking can also lead to crane collapse.
-Improper Training: Crane accidents can result from a crew member not following proper procedures and precautions. Oftentimes, this is a result of the worker not being certified or trained to take on the role.
-Touching of Power Lines: Crane contact with a live power line can lead to electrocution of the operator and those in contact with the crane. Indeed, Runnion Equipment states that a common reason for OSHA fines result from there being no determination if a power line is located within the crane’s working 20-foot radius.
Ways to Prevent Crane Accidents:
-Analyze the Construction Site: Before any crane activities begin, it’s important to understand the site. The crane’s location should be flat and open. Wind conditions during the crane’s scheduled operation time needs to be known.
-Component Inspections: All crane components, from the slings to the gears and appliances, should be inspected on a regular basis. Timeframes vary, but factors to consider include equipment age, the last time the equipment was used, and if the equipment was recently repaired. All equipment that doesn’t pass inspection should be removed immediately for repairs or replacement. The newly built crane should then be tested to make sure it operates as intended.
-Load Inspection: Before lifting, the load’s weight and shape should be understood. Any loose pieces should be packed into containers before lifting. The load’s center of gravity should remain directly below the main hook.
-Worker Certification: While all workers should have an understanding of all crane operation roles, only those certified for specific jobs should take them on. There are a variety of certification programs available, including those from the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). These are available for the different roles needed on a construction site, including crane operator, rigger and signalperson.
The possibility of crane accidents is an unfortunate reality in the construction industry. To prevent tragedies, responsibilities associated with the crane operator or inspector should only be taken on by certified workers. Proper procedures for equipment assembly and handling should always be followed. Cranes should be serviced and upgraded using only certified parts (in our case Demag and Terex). Despite the statistics, accidents are preventable: it all starts with proper training.
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