Crane Accidents in the News
October 7, 2021
Cranes play an instrumental role in the construction industry, lifting and rotating heavy objects on jobsites, often at great heights. About 250,000 workers operate cranes as part of their job. However, cranes create dangerous workplace hazards.
During the first half of 2021, there were a number of crane accidents in the news. Workers who have been injured in crane accidents have the right to seek compensation for their losses. In some cases, injured employees may be able to seek damages from negligent third parties in addition to receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits.
While crane accidents are less common than falls or collisions at construction sites, they attract a lot of attention because cranes are highly visible. When crane accidents do occur, they often cause serious or fatal injuries. Examples of crane accidents in the first half of 2021 include the following:
- In February 2021, a crane collapsed at a 31-story building in Brooklyn, New York, and 60 firefighters responded, but no one was hurt.
- One worker was seriously injured when a crane dropped a load too quickly in Northwest Washington in March 2021.
- In April 2021, a crane crashed into a powerline, causing an electrical explosion, critically injuring a worker in Florida.
While some of these incidents posed a danger to pedestrians and residents nearby, most crane accidents cause injuries to workers.
What Types of Injuries are Caused by Crane Accidents?
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics indicate that many of the injuries to workers caused by crane accidents end up being fatal. Workers who do survive crane accidents typically suffer fractures, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), spinal cord injuries, and severe lacerations.
Between 40 and 50 workers die in crane accidents every year. A study that reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) over a 14-year period revealed the following causes of crane-related fatalities:
- Electrocution from overhead power lines.
- Struck by loads or crane booms.
- Crushed by a collapsed crane.
- Caught between crane equipment parts.
- Cranes also create risks of struck-by and falling object accidents for the general public in urban areas.
What Guidelines are There for Operating Cranes?
OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.179 lays out safety requirements for cranes, including the provision of fire extinguishers, lighting, footwalks, ladders, toerails, stops, bumpers, guards, and other safety devices. The standard also includes directives for crane construction, including brakes and hoisting mechanisms. OSHA standards also govern operation, assembly, and disassembly of cranes.
OSHA guidelines also require regular equipment inspections, staying clear of power lines and keeping clear of crane loads. Employers continue to violate these standards. According to the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), the OSHA issued more than 1,300 citations regarding cranes in the first 10 months of 2020.
Operating a crane also requires completion of an accredited training course. The OSHA offers crane operator safety training, as do many crane manufacturers. Employers must offer crane safety training every five years.
Why Do Crane Accidents Happen?
Crane safety training can help reduce the risk of workplace accidents. However, a study of crane accidents worldwide found that only 13 percent of accidents were due to operator error. The cause of most crane accidents included the following:
- Errors in assembling, disassembling, or climbing cranes
- Structural failures
- Foundation failures
- Mechanical or electrical malfunctions
Workers are often blamed for accidents when, in reality, other parties may be at fault. Crane equipment providers that act as subcontractors must adhere to construction industry standards. This includes carefully inspecting the crane and properly maintaining the equipment to ensure worker safety. Crane companies that fail to fulfill this responsibility may be sued for negligence, products liability, and breach of warranty if their actions are found to have caused an accident that seriously injured a crane operator or other worker.
General contractors and developers may also be held liable for damages to injured workers if they are providing cranes that they own. Other responsible parties may include manufacturers and distributors of crane equipment and components.
What Compensation Options are Available After a Crane Accidents?
Many employees involved in crane accidents do not survive. Workers injured in crane accidents who do survive may face an upfill battle with respect to obtaining the funds they need to restore financial security for themselves and their families.
For injured workers or surviving family members, the options for compensation that are available after a crane accident include the following:
- Workers’ Compensation for injured workers: These benefits pay medical bills and a portion of lost wages.
- Workers’ Compensation for surviving family members: Death benefits for spouses and dependents range from 51 percent to 66 percent of the deceased worker’s annual weekly wage, and up to $3,000 in funeral expenses may also be payable.
- Third-party claims: If negligence on the part of contractors, manufacturers, developers, or others directly contributed to the cause of an accident that resulted in injuries, workers or surviving family members may be able to file a third-party claim against those parties to obtain damages in addition to receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Determining third-party liability after a crane accident requires legal experience and specialized knowledge. Our lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have handled a number of cases involving third-party claims for injured workers, including the following:
- $3.4 million settlement for injured crane operator. The worker was struck in the back as the machine was dropping a load. He subsequently suffered a heart attack and was paralyzed. The manufacturer was held liable for supplying defective equipment.
- $2.25 million settlement for maintenance worker fixing a crane. The worker was tasked with troubleshooting a malfunctioning crane that was suspended high above the ground. He fell and suffered numerous injuries, including a fractured vertebra. Our lawyers were able to demonstrate that the crane was defective because it lacked a proper crossover walkway to allow maintenance workers to safely cross between service platforms on opposing sides of the crane.
It is important for workers injured in a crane accident to know that someone else besides their employer may have been responsible for damages. Manufacturers are legally bound to abide by standards to ensure their equipment is safe to use. Likewise, equipment rental companies must also adhere to company-wide standards. Developers or contractors operating their own cranes may be held liable for damages if they do so without following standard guidelines for supervision and training.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Handle Third-Party Claims Involving Crane Accidents
Crane accidents often result in severe or fatal injuries. Determining which party is responsible for a crane accident can be a very complicated process, but a lawyer can help. At times, multiple parties may be held accountable for damages. If you or someone you know has been involved in a crane accident, do not hesitate to contact our experienced and dedicated Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We will advise you of your full rights under the law. Complete our online form or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you. We proudly serve injured workers and their families throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg, from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania.