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Crane Accidents: Facts and Statistics

Cranes are an important facet of any construction site––using their hooks and booms, cranes help transport large and heavy materials across the work site. Although cranes serve to make workers’ lives easier and help perform work that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, cranes typically transport items that are heavier and denser. There is an increased risk of danger if proper safety procedures are not followed, leading to avoidable and tragic accidents for workers and passersby.

It’s important to know your rights in the event that a crane accident occurs. If you or a loved one has been in a crane accident, it is best to seek legal counsel. The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are ready to consult with you on your case. To request a FREE case evaluation, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form to speak to one of Block O’Toole & Murphy’s construction accident lawyers today.

Crane Facts and Statistics

crane at a construction site, crane accident facts and statistics

Cranes pose a great risk to pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and workers if proper safety protocols are not adhered to. In their most recent analysis on crane accidents, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that an average of 44 people die in crane-related accidents in the U.S. each year. Crane accidents occur equally at construction sites (24%) and factories or plants (24%), with nearly 70% of crane accident fatalities occurring in the specialty trade, heavy and civil engineering, and construction industries. Additionally, just over half of all fatal crane injuries involved the worker being struck by an object or equipment.

In the past few years, New York City has been the location of several crane accidents. In one incident, construction workers were disassembling a crane in Greenpoint, Brooklyn when the boom came loose and fell to the side of the building. Although no injuries occurred, the accident highlighted the lack of safety procedures at the work site. In another incident, wild winds from Hurricane Zeta caused a crane on top of a building in Midtown Manhattan to spin in circles and knock debris to the ground. The falling debris caused damage to the building but no injuries; however, people in the surrounding area were ordered to stay inside. Almost a day after this crane accident was reported, a floating construction crane hit the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and caused traffic buildup in both directions, but again, luckily there were no serious injuries.

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an overall downward trend in crane accidents, these well-chronicled incidents remind us that cranes still pose a significant risk to the public.

Types of Crane Accidents

In many cases, crane accidents are a direct result of someone’s negligence. According to the Crane Inspection and Certification Bureau (CICB), 90% of crane accidents happen because of human error. It is incredibly important for employers to properly train their workers and make sure the crane is safe to use.

Due to their size, weight, and capacity to carry large and heavy objects, it is easy for cranes to cause major damage in an accident. There are several different types of crane accidents; the below are some of the most common.

  • Dropped loads: Cranes are generally used to transport larger or heavier materials across the length of a construction site, but even cranes have a weight limit. If the load isn’t properly secured or if the crane is overloaded, this large load can drop and potentially injure someone.
  • Failure to use a signal person: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has several rules and regulations for cranes, including the requirement that signal persons must be used when necessary. The signal person is specifically trained to communicate with the crane operator by hand, voice, or gesture. If the signal person is not being used, or if the signal person is improperly trained, accidents are more likely to occur.
  • Contact with power lines: OSHA requires that all parts of the crane must be at least 20 feet away from power lines at all times. Before the crane can even be operated, site managers must perform an inspection and analysis of the work site to ensure that the crane will not come into contact with a power line. Not performing this inspection beforehand puts the lives of workers and passersby at risk.
  • Improper maintenance and inspection procedures: Just like any other piece of equipment, cranes must be checked regularly to make sure they are in proper shape. Similarly, OSHA states that cranes must have regular inspections to ensure their safety. Before a crane can be operated, OSHA requires that a worker inspect each crane component prior to lifting material into the air.
  • Improper disassembly and assembly: OSHA also requires that the assembly and disassembly of a crane be done under the supervision of a trained worker. Without a knowledgeable supervisor, the crane could be packed away or put together improperly, increasing the likelihood of future accidents.

OSHA’s laws are in place to protect workers on job sites and passersby. When general contractors, subcontractors, and others responsible for work site safety fail to follow proper protocols, they put human lives at risk.

Who is Liable in a Crane Accident?

Dealing with serious injuries from an accident is never easy, but it can be even harder if the accident happened because of someone else’s negligence. If you are thinking of pursuing legal action after your accident, it is important to know who may be at fault. Responsible parties could include:

  • Crane operator: Most crane accidents occur due to human error. If the crane operator was improperly trained, was operating the crane under the influence, or did not inspect the crane before use, they may be held liable for your accident.
  • General contractors: Under the New York Labor Law, general contractors have a legal duty to create a safe working environment. If they fail to do so, they could be found at fault for your accident.
  • Property owners: On a construction or work site, the New York Labor Law mandates that property owners have a legal responsibility to provide safe working conditions. If your accident was due to an unsafe work environment, the property owner may be found at fault.
  • Crane manufacturers: If your accident happened because of a malfunctioning crane, the company that manufactured the crane may be held liable. Crane manufacturers can also be held liable under product liability laws, which generally state that companies have a legal responsibility to ensure that their products are not defective or dangerous in any way.
  • Crane owners: Sometimes, the crane is owned by an independent third party. In this case, the crane owner could be one of the parties held liable for your accident.

Crane accident cases can be complex and seemingly overwhelming. Proving who is legally responsible and to what extent is a challenging job. It is, without question, a job that you should be consulting with an experienced construction accident lawyer about. If you have been injured in a crane accident it is best to speak with a personal injury attorney with a successful track record about your case.

New York Lawyers Representing Crane Accident Victims

No one wants to think about the possibility of sustaining serious injuries after an unfortunate accident. If you or a loved one has been involved in a crane accident, it can be hard to know where to begin when filing a lawsuit. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help you with your case while you focus on recovering. Our personal injury lawyers are dedicated to fighting for the proper compensation for victims of crane and other construction site accidents.

One of our crane accident cases involves a tragic incident in which a loving husband and father was killed on the job. The 38-year-old HVAC technician was tasked with the removal of a 28,450-pound chiller unit. This job required using a boom truck with a hoist chain to lift the chiller. However, the hoist chains provided were not suitable for lifting such a heavy object, and they broke while the chiller was being lifted. The chiller unit fell on its side and pinned the worker against the wall. Tragically, he died from his injuries. Our attorneys represented the surviving family members and were able to secure a $15,000,000 settlement for them.

Another crane accident result includes a $12,000,000 settlement for a Local 147 tunnel worker. Our client fell approximately 40 feet into a ventilation shaft on a Manhattan construction site after attempting to stabilize a crane basket. Our client was acting as the signal man and was trying to rig a personal lifting basket to a larger crane on site that would hold one of his co-workers. When the crane began to lower the cage toward the opening of the shaft, it started to sway with his co-worker inside. Our client reached over the protective railing to try and stabilize the basket, but the momentum of the swaying cage carried our client over an open portion of the shaft. Unfortunately, he fell down the shaft and suffered severe internal and external injuries as a result.

Finally, we have also obtained a $6,000,000 settlement for a union operating engineer who was injured while trying to exit a crane on a Manhattan construction site. Our client had been operating the crane and was trying to exit; to do so, he had to climb down a series of ladders that had a platform at each level. While climbing down, he expected to step onto one of the platforms. Instead, he fell 13 feet through a hatch door that had been left open. Unfortunately, he suffered serious damage to his cervical and lumbar spine, and had to undergo both neck surgery and lumbar spine surgery. Ultimately, we claimed that our client was completely disabled from any future employment.

If you have been hurt in a crane accident, the attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online form to discuss your case with a qualified crane accident attorney today. We serve the entire state of New York, including New York City, Long Island, Yonkers, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany.


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