In Denver, a 156-foot, 155-ton crane recently collapsed in the River North district, mildly injuring a construction worker. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there was an average of 82 crane-related deaths between 1997 and 2006. Although no one was killed in the Denver incident, it highlights the danger faced by many construction workers.
The construction industry couldn’t function without the operation of cranes, from mobile “cherry pickers” to massive industrial cranes. Not only is construction one of the most important trades in North America, it’s also one of the most dangerous. And as the most visible piece of equipment at most construction sites, crane failures often receive the most media attention.
“Ground conditions, including underground hazards, soil composition, moisture content and overall ground strength is one of the most often overlooked parts of crane operations, especially for smaller cranes that are running from job site to job site on a daily basis,” says Kris Koberg, CEO, DICA. “Customer and market demands are to get in, get the job done, and get out in the shortest period of time possible. That’s why using engineered safety equipment and procedures – and understanding their limitations is so important.”
A massive crane collapse in the Muslim holy city of Mecca killed hundreds earlier this year, generating headlines around the world. Investigators found that heavy winds from bad weather caused the collapse. While weather-related accidents can’t always be avoided, accidents from human error can be prevented.
Case in point — a crane accident at TimkenSteel in Canton, Ohio, where a construction worker was badly injured by falling equipment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a series of safety citations to TimkenSteel on October 30, the second time this year OSHA has been forced to cite the company.
“This worker is lucky to be alive,” said Howard Eberts, OSHA’s director in Cleveland. “We also observed conditions where workers could have fallen or lost limbs. It is unacceptable that the company has repeatedly been cited for these same hazards. TimkenSteel’s safety and health program has major deficiencies that need to be addressed immediately.”
Yet the crane collapse in Denver shows that even when crane operators do everything by the book, accidents can still happen.
“There must have been a void in the ground that nobody knew about,” said Jeff Macklin of RMS Cranes, a theory confirmed by the project’s developers and a Denver fire department spokeswoman.
OSHA guidelines state that cranes must be planted on firm ground that’s well drained, sufficiently graded, and with the support of equipment like outrigger crane pads, crane pads, and blocking. In this case, a void beneath the crane that no one knew about caused the collapse.