Common Causes of Crane Accidents

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Each year, workers in New York are injured or killed in crane related accidents. Recently, there seem to be more crane accidents than ever before. It is important to know the main causes of crane related accidents so that workers are better informed about important safety precautions. A little knowledge may prevent a lot of accidents. 

Crane buckling or collapsing – All cranes have weight limits to ensure that the crane will not tip over. To counterbalance the weight, cranes use counterweight and out-rigging systems. If the maximum weight is exceeded the crane will be in danger of either buckling or the boom may collapse. Additional factors such as high winds can exacerbate the danger, making buckling or a collapse more likely. 

Improper crane assembly – One of the biggest reasons that a boom collapses is improper assembly. Specifically if the crane does not have the proper blocking (wood or metal supports) to stabilize the load, the unbalanced load will move and may lead to the crane collapsing. A crane is only as sturdy as its weakest link, and a safe crane operation cannot be achieved without proper assembly. 

Improper employee training – Operators who do not have the proper training in crane operation and safety procedures may lead to crane accidents. Employers should make sure employees are trained and have completed OSHA safety courses specifically related to crane operations. In addition, employers should take extra safety precautions to warn workers and maintain a safe distance from the crane operation and other work being performed on the jobsite. Everyone on the job site has a stake in crane safety. In fact, the most common types of workers injured or killed in crane accidents are: 

  • Laborers
  • Electricians
  • Welders
  • Cutters
  • Solderers
  • Brazers

Crane operators trailed these workers by a significant margin. This means that crane operators need to be mindful of others workers on the site, and other workers must always be aware of what the crane operator is doing with the crane at any given moment. 

Mechanical failures – Routine crane maintenance should be followed to prevent accidents due to mechanical failure. Crane components should be oiled on a regular basis and components with excessive wear should be repaired and replaced right away. 

Contact with overhead power lines – Electrocution from contact with overhead power lines is a leading cause of crane related accidents. Both the crane operator and workers in the crane basket should be aware of the placement of power lines surrounding the worksite. Before work commences the current to active power lines should be shut off to prevent electrocution from accidental contact with live wires. This is a tragically common cause of crane accidents, responsible for as much as 45 percent of all crane accident cases in the United States, according to OSHA. 

Flawed or infrequent inspections – Timely, consistent inspections by experienced and well-trained inspectors can wholly prevent tragic accidents. Employers with a mandate to get the job done are often disinterested in a thorough, time-consuming inspection. They’d much prefer someone come in and spend five useless minutes, approving the crane and allowing the work to continue. This kind of lax approach to safety costs lives. Inspectors must be vigilant in making sure any crane they clear to work is truly safe. If they do, the number of tragic crane accidents will be reduced dramatically.

Dropped loads – It is easy to forget that even if a crane has been maintained, inspected, and operated properly, it still poses a danger in the form of dropped loads. The items cranes are counted on to transport often weigh multiple tons. If a load is dropped or otherwise compromised during transport, it can present a clear and present danger to construction workers, nearby pedestrians and motorists, and building residents. 

Overturned cranes – Mistakes such as failure to inspect, failure to maintain, or failure to properly operate can result in a crane overturning during operation. This can result in injury or death for the crane operator, nearby workers, and others nearby. An overturned crane can combine the dangers of a dropped load with the dangers of a crane collapse. 

It is crucial that strict safety measures are adhered to when working on construction projects that utilize cranes. Block O’Toole & Murphy, LLP is a law firm that specializes in protecting the rights of injured construction workers involved in crane accidents. One of the premier personal injury firms in New York, Block O’Toole & Murphy has recorded more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. The trial lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are devoted to truly caring for and fighting for the rights of our clients. The lawyers here are different.

To learn more about the firm, please see our website at You may also call 212-736-5300 to schedule a free consultation.


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