According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), cranes on construction sites caused 22 fatalities last year. Electricians, construction workers, brazers, and welders were the occupations with the highest risk for crane-related serious injury and death.

The U.S. economy is booming, and when it booms, so does construction in many areas of the nation. But crane accidents are occurring with disturbing frequency, despite safety regulations and operation standards and practices that are better than they used to be.

What Causes Crane Accidents?

Part of the frequency of crane accidents stems from the number of types of cranes used on construction sites. A given site may have overhead cranes, tower cranes, mobile cranes, and rail-mounted cranes. All of them can endanger not only the workers who are operating them, but also workers nearby or below them.

The most common construction site accidents, according to OSHA, include falls, workers being caught between two things, being struck by an object, electrocution, and lack of fall protection. All of these can occur in crane operation or as a result of crane movement.

In addition, crane accidents can be caused by the following events, according to OSHA:

  • Dropped cargo
  • Boom collapses
  • Overturned cranes
  • Equipment failure or malfunction
  • Hitting active power lines (resulting in electrocution)
  • Struck-by crane loads/booms or jibs
  • Crushing by counter weight

Crane Accidents: Sobering Examples

OSHA data reveal sobering examples of fatal crane-related accidents. These provide a vivid picture of just how dangerous cranes can be to the workers on construction sites.

  • In one, the crane’s operator was in the middle of lifting a steel beam when it broke loose of the crane. The beam dropped 4 stories, hitting and flattening the operator compartment. The operator was killed by the impact.
  • In another, an employee was unloading a delivery truck via a mobile crane. The crane hit an overhead power line that was energized. The employee died from electrocution.
  • In a third fatal incident, an employee using a mobile crane to replace filters on a step-down transformer contacted 4,160 volts of electricity. He was electrocuted and died.
  • In a fourth fatal accident, one employee was helping another set up a hook tender. A stump was utilized as an anchor point. The stump loosened, which loosened the skyline’s tension. Both concrete stump and skyline hit the first employee, killing him instantly.
  • Finally, a Link Belt mobile crane was being utilized to move a gravel shaker table. The crane capsized, crushing the cab and the employee inside it. He died of internal injuries.

Who Is Legally Responsible for Crane Accidents?

People who are hurt on construction sites because of crane accidents are entitled to workers’ compensation that will pay for medical bills and time off work to recover. But what if negligence was a contributing factor to the accident? OSHA publishes crane safety guidelines. When these or other procedures aren’t followed, or defective or uninspected equipment is used, or cranes aren’t maintained properly, workers may be entitled to additional compensation through civil litigation. In the case of fatal crane accidents, loved ones may be entitled to compensation according to wrongful death statutes.

Multiple parties can potentially be held liable for crane injuries and deaths, including the crane company contractor, the crane manufacturer, maintenance companies, parts distributors and other on-site subcontractors.

Additional Resources on Crane Accidents:

  1. United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Commonly Used Statistics. 
  2. United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA Quick Card. Top Four Construction Hazards. 
  3. United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Accident Results
  4. Graphic Products, Crane Safety. 
  5. Graphic Products, Crane Accidents.