There is a saying in the industry that “the rain will drive you crazy, but the wind will kill you.” To say nothing of the physical toll high-winds and extreme temperatures can take on your body when working outdoors, the consequences of working in high winds on or near heavy equipment can literally be fatal. The past few weeks have given us a wake-up call to this very fact. The disastrous crane accident that happened on September 11, 2015 in Saudi Arabia made headlines across the globe and already has its own Wikipedia entry. In total 118 people were killed and 394 injured, all innocent bystanders preparing for the Hajj pilgrimage.
And after weeks of investigation, the catalyst for this crane accident has officially been determined: high winds. According to reports, the wind speeds that day reached 105 kph. Let me convert that for you. That’s a screaming 64.244 miles per hour.
But the blame, of course, does not stop there. You can’t find wind accountable nor can you fine wind for damages caused. It’s a sad but true statement, and in this case, the blame falls on the mobile crane operator and the company for whom he worked. Why? Because had the operator and construction company been familiar with crane and its operator manual, they would have known that such wind speeds were too strong for the crane, especially with the boom 190 meters (623 feet and 4 inches).
According to Liebher, the manufacturer, the crane came with specific instructions regarding wind speed limits, and those “wind speed charts” were ignored by both the operator and his company. No matter the crane you operate, you need to have read the operator’s manual and be especially familiar with the safe operations portion of it. You also need to know its wind limits and understand how wind affects mobile crane stability by increasing dynamic forces on the boom and load.
To get another perspective, take a look at this warning from an operator warning label on Manitowoc crawler crane:
“The effect of wind can severely shock and side load the boom and jib, possibly causing tip over or damage. As a general rule, if the wind causes the centerline of the freely suspended load to move out past the hinge pin on either side of the book or jib, the load should immediately be lowered to the ground. Operations should not resume until the wind has subsided. For specific wind conditions and rules for your crane, refer to operator’s manual or contact manufacturer.”
Naturally, every crane’s wind speed limit will differ, depending on manufacturer, type, weight, boom extension, jib attachment, terrain, etc. But generally speaking, let’s say you do not know the maximum wind speed allowed for safe operation, then any winds in excess of 25 MPH should be enough to require a qualified person to determine if the size, shape, and weight load can be safety lifted.
This principles applies for other equipment: forklifts, aerial lifts, earth movers, etc. In fact, the aerial lift standard, which covers scissor lifts, aerial boom lifts, bucket trucks, and even scaffolding, and which refers to the manufacturer for the ultimate decision, often dictates that winds in excess of 20 MPH are too much. Even then, do not assume wind speeds of less than 20 MPH are a guarantee for safety. The higher you are, the more susceptible you are to tip over. Recently, wind gusts of only 13 MPH caused a tip over that killed two workers and left one seriously injured. If wind is a concern, don’t go up in the lift.
Crane Accident: A Preventable Mistake
“Human error was to blame for the collapse of a huge crane on a Tribeca street in Manhattan that killed one pedestrian and injured three other people on a windy morning in February, a city investigation found.
The crawler crane, with a total length of 565 feet, according to the report, was being lowered to the ground as a safety measure because of high winds at the time of the accident.
But the report, released Friday, found that the crane operator, Kevin Reilly, had made a series of mistakes that caused the collapse. His crane operator’s license has been suspended, and the city’s Department of Buildings is seeking to revoke it.
Stacey Richman, a lawyer for Mr. Reilly, said that the findings “seem a bit premature” but declined to comment further until she had a chance to study the full report.
The 247-page report found that Mr. Reilly had failed to secure the crane the night before the accident despite a forecast of high winds the next day. In lowering the crane amid high winds on the morning of Feb. 5, it found that he lowered the main boom of the crane at a dangerous angle, causing the crane to become unstable and crash.
“Due to these actions, the crane operator is no longer allowed to operate cranes in New York City,” the Department of Buildings said in a statement.
After the accident, members of Mr Reilly’s union, Local 14 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, hailed him as a hero for staying in the cab as it began to tip over, reducing the risk of further injuries to pedestrians.
In a statement on Friday, the union said it supported efforts by the city to require more supervision and additional certifications to operate on large cranes, but didn’t endorse its findings of fault.
“Even though this investigation has provided us with a great deal of new information, we will never really know exactly what happened inside that cab on that fateful morning,” said Edwin Christian, the business manager of the union.
Mr. Reilly told investigators the wind was initially at 10 to 12 miles per hour, but when the wind reached 20 miles per hour he decided to bring the crane down.
He said he lowered the main boom to a safe angle of 80 degrees, but a forensic investigation of the accident concluded that the angle was significantly lower, making the crane unstable.
“Crane operations have very high stakes, particularly in New York City—and the operators of these huge machines must be held to the highest standards,” said Rick Chandler, the city’s buildings commissioner.”
Almost any accident can be prevented with the proper training. Human error should not be the reason for death and injury.
Crane Falls Without Regard
If you are in the construction industry, you may be aware of the accidents that may occur at any moment. No matter what machine you are operating, or what site you may be working on, there are always hazards that you need to be aware of and take seriously. For example, when working with any kind of crane, you need to be sure you are following all the correct safety procedures, in order to keep you and those around you safe from any possible crane accidents. No matter where you are working, what site you are working on, or how experienced you are, accidents can happen if you are violating safety procedures. Take this story for example:
The 450-feet yellow crane crashed down last week on the site in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave located northeast of Poland, as a result of safety violations by the contractor, a municipal spokesperson told the news site New Kaliningrad.
No one was hurt in the incident except the crane operator, who was in the cab at the time of the accident. He sustained minor injuries. The crane fell across the intended construction area and breached a perimeter wall to crash down on an adjacent sidewalk. The crane cab was completely overturned.”
It does not matter what the construction site was, any safety violation can cause an accident and can be deadly. This construction site suffered an accident because of safety violations that were committed by the contractor. Had the safety standards been followed and not disregarded, there may have been a smaller chance of an accident occurring. In order to prevent accidents like this. make sure that you are following all the procedures, especially if you are working with machines and equipment, like cranes, that could be deadly if treated incorrectly.
Have you ever wandered past a crane, and got the shivers thinking about what would happen if that crane were to topple over? Unfortunately, accidents like that don’t just happen in your imagination. Crane accidents happen, more often than you would think. These crane accidents can be dangerous and deadly, especially if they are crashing or tipping over. Accidents just like this have happened recently in the world, and are just as tragic as if they had happened in our own backyard.
Crane Accident in Arkansas
In Arkansas, a crane operator was killed in a crane accident on a highway construction site. The man operating the crane, 28-year-old Matthew Kyle Ferrari, was helping to conduct highway improvements when he was somehow injured, and later pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. It is still being investigated exactly what happened. Unfortunately, this crane accident is not unique. Tower cranes, the cranes that are fixed in place and often used for big construction sites, are less likely to be involved in fatal crane accidents. However, according to Benjamin Ross, the federal OSHA deputy regional administrator for Enforcement Programs in the Southeast, most crane violations and crane accidents happen on small home-delivery truck cranes, or truck cranes operated by local businesses. While discussing and explaining the likelihood of crane accidents, Ross said “any failure in a crane itself- there’s no return… it’s kind of like an airplane.”
This seems to be the case in a recent, fatal crane accident that occurred in Brisbane. A father and son had been up in a crane, seemingly taking pictures of the construction site, when the crane toppled over. Sadly, the crane accident killed the father, 41-year-old Chris Powell, and severely injured his son, 17-year-old Brendan Powell. They may have been safe, but there is also some thought that maybe the equipment wasn’t prepared to be extended all the way out in the current conditions. Whatever the case may be, the crane accident resulted in a devastating outcome, showing that we need to be prepared and trained to inspect, operate, and use cranes safely, even if it is not for construction use.
While we have talked about crane collapses before, it is never wrong to emphasize the commonality of them; especially when safety procedures are neglected. Read the story below of a recent collapse:
“The companies building an eastern Ohio River bridge have been fined $21,379 in connection with a crane collapse earlier this year, according to federal safety regulators.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Walsh Construction Co. and Vinci Construction Grand Projets last week over the Feb. 19 incident in which a crane fell into the river.
The citation deemed the two violations “serious,” which OSHA says could “cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm, unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation.”
Walsh and Vinci are part of the WVB East End Partners group that oversees the eastern segment, including the span between Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky., and the roads leading to it on both sides of the river.
“WVB does not typically comment on such citations,” spokesman Dan Hartlage said in a statement. “That said, we continually strive to make our work zones safe for our employees and the public. Safety is our top priority.”
He did not immediately say if the companies plan to contest the citation.
In its investigation, OSHA found that the crane’s wind indicator wasn’t working and that the machine should have been taken out of service and replaced, said Bill Cochran, area director for the agency’s Nashville office, which has jurisdiction over navigable waters in Kentucky.
He said the crane also was being operated outside the manufacturer’s recommendations for the angle of the boom.
Wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour were reported the morning of the collapse. No one was injured, but a worker who fell into the river had to be rescued.
Shortly after the incident, an official with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 181 said the crane should not have in use because of the high winds.
The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators recommends a crane the size of the one that toppled into the river be lowered about halfway to the ground and not be operating when winds exceed 30 miles per hour.
WDRB News has requested the documents from the OSHA investigation under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
The crane collapse is the second construction-related incident investigated by OSHA during work on the bridges project. In 2015, federal investigators concluded that Walsh Construction didn’t violate U.S. safety rules after three workers were thrown into the Ohio River in 2014 as they tried to recover a boat that had broken loose downtown.”
Crane Accident Proves Deadly in Queens
If there’s one thing we know about construction, it’s that accidents and unexpected tragedies can happen all the time. Whether your equipment is faulty, your training is lacking, or it’s just a fluke, you should always be prepared to respond. A recent accident happened in Queens, when the beam of a crane fell, killing two workers, including the crane operator.
“The accident occurred around 12:10 p.m. at a construction site at 81-10 134th Street in the Briarwood neighborhood, where work was being done on an apartment complex. The beam had been lifted about four stories when it fell, striking the cab of the crane and killing the operator inside before hitting the worker on the ground who had been helping to guide it with a flag.
The two unidentified workers, ages 47 and 43, were dead by the time emergency workers arrived, officials said. The I-shaped beam weighed about 6,500 pounds, officials said.
Officials at the scene said investigators were trying to determine why the beam fell. Their preliminary findings indicated that the cause was a failure of the crane’s rigging, unrelated to the wind, Rick D. Chandler, the commissioner of the city’s Buildings Department, said. But Mr. Chandler cautioned that investigators were at the beginning of their inquiry and that they had not made any final determinations.
The work site had no open violations and the crane operator had no history of discipline, the Buildings Department said. The crane passed an inspection in June.
Around the site, a low-density area near the Van Wyck Expressway, construction workers stood solemnly in groups as investigators and union officials went in and out.
At an unrelated news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the accident a tragedy. Mr. Chandler echoed the sentiment as he spoke at the site in the afternoon.
“Those two gentlemen won’t be going home tonight, and we’re very, very sorry about that,” he said.
In February, the mayor, a Democrat, temporarily tightened the rules for cranes operating in high winds after a crane fell in Lower Manhattan on a blustery day, killing one person and injuring three others. The new rules required that crawler cranes stop operating if steady winds exceeded 20 miles per hour or gusts exceeded 30 m.p.h. The federal Labor Department later issued two violations to the crane’s operator in that crash, Galasso Trucking and Rigging.
After the rules expired this spring, they reverted to guidelines dating to the 1960s that restrict crane work during steady wind speeds of 30 m.p.h. or higher. Construction industry representatives had complained that the tighter rules were unnecessary and hurt business, Crain’s New York reported in February.
According to the National Weather Service, winds in some parts of the city on Tuesday exceeded 30 m.p.h.
A woman who answered the phone at Pav-Lak, which the Buildings Department said is the contractor of the Briarwood site, declined to comment. “I don’t have any information at this time,” she said.
Pete Corrigan, an organizer for the New York City District Council of Carpenters, said contractors around the city had sent some workers home on Tuesday because of the winds. Other workers pressed on, he said. “You’re at your own peril,” Mr. Corrigan said.”
Another Crane Accident Leads to Death
Make sure that you are careful when you are operating any machinery, or you could end up like this crane operator in the following article:
“A crane operator faces involuntary manslaughter charges in a 2014 incident in which his son and another construction worker plummeted to their deaths from above a Winters bridge construction site. Mark Powell operated the crane that lifted the basket carrying son and operator Marcus Zane Powell and pile driver Glenn Allen Hodgson early May 30, 2014, according to a Cal-OSHA citation. The hoisted basket they rode aboard broke free, plunging the pair eight stories to their deaths.
Powell was one of three supervisors on the site of the new Winters Road Bridge being built by Burlingame-based Disney Construction. The Powells and Hodgson were part of a crew repairing a crane that was being used as a drill rig at the site of the bridge, which spans Putah Creek and connects Yolo and Solano County.
Mark Powell’s crane lifted the younger Powell and Hodgson skyward in the basket to repair and reattach a wire line atop the second drilling crane. Powell then used his crane to lower the men and pull the wire line out of the second crane. But the wire line became stuck in the drilling crane, causing a chain of events that dropped the men and their basket 80 feet to the ground, the Cal-OSHA citation read.
The criminal charges followed more than $100,000 in fines levied against Disney Construction filed after the fatal incident. Cal-OSHA officials assessed $106,110 in fines in November 2014, citing serious violations. Among them, the crane Powell used to lift the younger Powell and Hodgson was not certified for lifting and the safety latch on the hook that held the personnel basket was defective and did not lock.
A “long list of mechanical deficiencies” with the nearly 40-year-old crane used to lift the two men were also found by third-party inspectors following the incident, Cal-OSHA said in its report. “Since the decision was made to use a crane and a personnel platform, the root cause of the accident was the failure to survey and inspect the equipment being used and the equipment being repaired,” the agency’s inspectors concluded.”
Crane Collapse on Tappan Zee Bridge: Safety Lapse
As we know, accidents can happen in any workplace and at any time. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between something that was purely accidental, and something that may have been prevented had it not been for a lapse in safety procedures. This is the case for a recent crane collapse on the Tappan Zee Bridge, NY. A 250 foot boom fell from a crane, landing across six lanes of traffic. Luckily, the boom did not seriously injure anyone, which is just short of a miracle. “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the New York State Department of Labor are looking into what caused a 300-ton crane to fall over all six lanes of the Tappan Zee Bridge Tuesday,” said one news report.
Additionally, the following was written about the accident on Lohud:
“State and federal investigators are continuing their investigation into what caused the accident. They have already spent several hours interviewing the crane operator at the controls that day. He has not been identified.
Veteran crane operator Tom Barth, who spent 38 years working on cranes across the United States, said investigators will need to learn more about the hammer that the crane was holding in place. The hammer is held in place by “jaws,” Barth notes.
“It’s possible that the jaws on the hammer could be worn out,” Barth says.
“He’s pulling on it (the hammer) and if the pile slips out of the vibro-hammer and all that pressure is released, the boom will go up in the air,” Barth says.
Barth said he’d be interested to see the daily and monthly inspection reports for the crane and hammer to determine if any defects in the equipment were noted or overlooked.
One veteran crane operator familiar with the Tappan Zee Bridge project told The Journal News/lohud this week that the hammer may have become stuck during the pile-driving operation, placing pressure on the cable that hoists the hammer upward and creating something of a slingshot effect. The worker asked that his name not be used because he is not authorized to speak with the media.
Tappan Zee Constructors conducts regular inspections of its equipment: Every crane on the site is inspected daily by its operator; monthly inspections are done by supervisors; annual inspections are handled by an outside company.”
Maybe the accident wasn’t an operator error; it could have been a machine malfunction. However, no matter the cause of the accident, it still may have been prevented if there had been more regard for safety. Replacing the jaws on the hammer, or inspecting the equipment better; these are things that can be done at any time, and things that can prevent serious accidents, such as this crane accident.
Crane Collapse Leading to Deaths in China
How often have we heard the news of a crane collapse? In construction, cranes are very important pieces of equipment, and they are used often. However, sometimes these machines are overlooked, because of the commonality of them. When machines or equipment are taken for granted, or are overlooked, accidents tend to happen. This is often the case leading up to a crane collapse. Although it’s true that many times it can’t be stopped or prevented, depending on conditions, it is also true that they can be prevented.
Recently, a gantry crane collapsed onto a construction worker’s accommodation at a construction site in China. The temporary hotel was crushed by the crane. This building was housing 139 people in total, only 88 of whom were able to escape the results of the falling crane. 18 workers were killed as a result of the crane collapse, leaving many more critically injured. According to sources, the crane was exposed to over 100kph winds. This caused the crane to be pushed and swayed to enough speed, ultimately causing it to collapse.
There are many safety standards and precautions that are put in place to try to prevent these sorts of accidents. A crane collapse is nothing to take lightly, as it can result in the death of many. In the case of this accident in China, it is possible that there were some things that were neglected or out of order that could have led to the crane collapse. Perhaps the crane had been left un-anchored, or had not been anchored properly. This would have made it possible for the wind to push it until it built enough speed to smash the end-rail fenders off, or be thrown over them. Or, perhaps, there were no fenders at all.
There are preventive measures that can be taken in any construction site, with any piece of equipment. Make sure that you are properly trained, and know how to operate and care for machinery and equipment that you will be using. It could save lives.
Crane Worker Electrocuted, Freak Accident?
Breaking News – Bedford County, PA, September 8th, 2015 – a man has just been electrocuted in “what officials are calling a ‘freak accident’ at a construction site.” So begins the newscast, so begins many a newscast. These statements are often followed up by something along the lines of “we did everything right,” “we’re always concerned with safety here,” “we have our safety meeting,s, everyone’s been trained,” “we don’t know what went wrong,” “we’re just in shock.”
But is there really such a thing as a “freak accident”? I do not ask this question to make light of or overlooked the tragedy here, nor do we want to take anything away from the company for whom this employee worked, or any employee injured or killed on the job, for that matter. Maybe they were concerned with safety. Maybe they did have their pre-shift safety meetings. And maybe everyone was trained? But then why the accident?
More importantly, was it preventable?
First, let me answer my own question. Yes, there are freak accidents, but by that I mean very explicitly: “an accident that could not be foreseen, planned for, nor prevented.” For example, just today a construction worker was killed alongside the freeway when an out-of-control driver drove through construction barricades and hit him. There was not one thing anyone could have done. The great tragedy here is that someone lost their life.
But in the case of the electrocuted worker, I’d argue that there are two tragedies: one, a man–a husband, a father, a co-worker–list his life; and two, it could have been prevented.
Let’s look at what we know, or at least at the basics we need to know:
- A crane operator had a load of pipe rigged to the hoist line of a mobile crane
- This crane was near power lines and, in fact, at some point backed into them, or was near enough that the arc flash reached the crane
- The crane operator’s co-worker, the decedent, was near the load when he reached for the wire rope.
- The electricity circulating through the crane found an outlet in him and he was killed.
There is only one thing I see wrong here–fatally wrong: why were the power lines not turned off prior to lifting operations, and if they could not be turned off for some reason, why was that crane as close as it was to the power lines? On these two things, OSHA is very specific. At least two days prior to work, a call to the utility company should have been made, and the power to the lines should have been shut off. Otherwise, as shown in the illustration, no part of a crane should ever be
within 10 feet of a 50 kv line, and so on.
Even if he had not touched the wire rope, he likely would have been electrocuted seeing as the ground becomes energized outward from the crane. The closer you are to the center, the more dangerous that shock will be.
With all that in mind, and with all due respect and condolences to all involved in this tragic accident, th
ere is no way this was a so-called “freak accident.” Plain and simple it could have and, in deed, should have been prevented. The pending OSHA investigation will simply determine on whom falls the responsibility for the proximity of the crane to the power lines and to whom will be issued the inevitable citations.
Above all, remember this: just as it “takes a village to raise children,” it takes an entire crew to keep workers safe.
Crane Rigging Accident Profile: A Case Study
Looking at a real-life scenario gone wrong offers perspective on the severity of missing details. In this particular crane rigging accident profile, everything was entirely preventable. If the proper training, appropriate pre-shift checks, and other maintenance were performed regularly, this accident would not have happened. Following the standards confirms safety.
Employee #1 had enjoyed a successful day. As a concrete truck driver, he had participated on a construction site all day, delivering concrete as needed to ground workers. He had managed to keep the customer and his employer content with his work and was looking forward to clocking out for the day.
Before leaving, Employee #1 needed to rinse out his truck in line with company policy. However, he didn’t notice the tower crane still working nearby on the construction site. The crane’s cable broke, sending both the block and tackle on top of Employee #1, killing him.
How to Prevent Crane Rigging Accidents
It’s easy to ask why something happened, but perhaps what is more important is how. Employee #2, the crane operator, failed to perform the pre-shift check of his crane and rigging. The crane’s cable’s weaknesses would have been noticed if the pre-shift check had been performed properly. Crane rigging and being aware of it is not to be taken lightly. Rushing these checks or skipping them entirely only increase the potential for fatalities and death.
Who is to Blame?
It’s easy to point fingers after an accident. In this particular accident profile, both Employee #1 and Employee #2 had the power to prevent the accident. If Employee #1 had been aware of the crane at work, he would have stayed away from the danger zone. If Employee #2 had performed his pre-checks correctly, the crane rigging would not have failed. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who causes the accident, but what’s truly important is preventing them.
Crane rigging is a highly effective and powerful construction tool. One person can control the lift of thousands of pounds, thousands of feet in the air. When this tool is broken, misused, or underrated, this is the fault of people, not the tool itself. This complacency hurts people or worse. Safety is a decision, not an accident.
Get Cane & Rigger Safety Training
Unfortunately, accidents like this are not uncommon. While it may be an “accident,” there are precautions that tend to be neglected in nearly every one. Disregarding any rule or standard, no matter how small, can cost you. Don’t let that be the case. Make 2017 the year that you obey all safety standards and avoid all accidents. If you need training, it can be found at the following links:
Online (eLearning) Training Courses