Crane Accidents – Safety Issues

Cranes are an indispensable part of construction and manufacturing sites. It is estimated that there are around ten million cranes in use around the world. Both the cranes and the people operating them are prone to limitations and failures. The heavy loads moved by cranes are no match for human beings. The truck may tip, the load may drop, or a fellow worker may crush due to a slight slip on the part of the operator. To prevent such mishaps every one must be involved—the management, the supervisors, and the work crew. Safety Issues Hazards may be dormant, armed, or active in nature.

A dormant hazard is an undetected hazard created either by design or by the use of the crane. When a dormant hazard becomes active during crane use, then it is called armed hazard. A combination of factors makes an armed hazard active and at this stage, it is too late to act. While it is difficult to control a dormant hazard, armed or active hazards can be controlled or eliminated by enforcing workforce safety rules. Loads moved by cranes can be heavy, difficult to maneuver, and are subject to unexpected movements. Both the crane operator and the workers in the proximity of the crane are prone to several risks.

Some of them are: • The risk of the load falling on the workers while guiding a suspended load into position. • The hazard of electrocution when working near overhead power lines. • The risk of workers being caught within the swing radius of the load. • The possibility of the crane operator not being familiar with the crane operation. Case Study On March 15, 2008 a fatal crane accident took place in the affluent Manhattan area in New York city. This site was adjourning a skyscraper which housed many people. A piece of steel fell off the crane, which was at least 15 stories tall, and split it in half.
The impact of the accident was so tremendous that a part of it crashed on the 18th and 19th floors of a building on 300 East 51st Street and another part of it hit several houses on East 50th Street. Four lives were lost and several were seriously injured. Several cars were crushed, some had their windows blown out, and some turned turtle. What is a matter of serious concern here is that residents living in the adjoining skyscraper had noticed that the crane looked unsteady and precarious and had complained repeatedly. Records in the City Building Department show that in February 2008 a caller had questioned the crane’s safety.
This called was dismissed as unwarranted by the authorities. On March 4th another caller had made a specific complaint that there weren’t enough safety ties in the upper portions of the crane that attached it to the building. On March 6th an inspector had inspected the site and had reported that everything was fine with it. Another point of study is that a stop work order was issued by the Buildings Department for construction activity in that site in anticipation of high winds during the weekend. However, no order was issued for the movement of crane. This case exposes some serious security concerns.
The construction company had apparently subcontracted the work to different companies and couldn’t be held responsible for the lapse. Despite repeated complaints no proper inspection was carried out by the authorities as well. All this led to the loss of lives and property. Accidents Causes/Identification Many causes can be attributed to crane accidents. Flouting rules by way of overloading, hitting the upper limit switch, and skipping daily inspections are some. Overloading is done on the assumption that the manufacturer would have built a good security factor into the design.
When the correct weight is not properly marked on the loads, it becomes difficult to tell the weight by looking at them. Another cause of crane accident is “side pull. ” Overhead cranes are built to go straight up and straight down. When something is pulled from the sides from an adjoining bay, it adds stress to the crane and is prone to accidents. Touching the upper switch limit is another cause of accident. When this is done, there are chances of collision of the hook block, and the drum and the load getting dropped. Working under a load is another serious cause of accident.
If the primary brake fails, then the secondary brake is designed to bring down the load at a controlled speed; any which way, it is dangerous to people who stand underneath. In older models of cranes, the reverse button can be pressed to control the speed of a crane. This can also be very dangerous. The brakes are usually adjusted for one speed and direction. When they are suddenly altered for another speed and direction, it results in a violent jerk. However, this option no longer exists in the newer models. The reverse button would work only when the crane completely stops.
Any flaws in the crane operation can be identified by daily inspection of the crane. The hoist can be started and unusual sounds should be watched out for. When lowered and lifted it can be made sure that the hook stops. The trolley and bridge movement should be smooth. The movement of the hoist in all directions should synchronize with the buttons that operate them. The brakes should be functional. This has to be documented. However, this procedure is mostly skipped by companies. Non-compliance of this rule is another major cause of accident. Workers Training Programs
True, it’s not possible to remove all safety hazards from our life. However, it is possible to avoid them by being prepared for emergencies and by taking some precautions. Training and inspection are the solutions to reduce dangers around cranes. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to train employees in specific safety and health aspects of their jobs. Companies are required to maintain a permanent written record that documents all training programs given to the employees. Training can be imparted at two levels—general awareness and job-specific.
The crew should be educated on the proper use of cranes. Inspectors can take up special training programs on how to perform inspections. State and federal regulations require crane operators to be trained and certified. They must be at least 18 years of age. Their training must be reviewed once in three years. Whenever there is a change in work conditions or equipment a fresh training must be given. If any operator has had a near miss or if an accident happens, then additional training should be given to them. Training programs that focus on safety will help operators learn from other loss experiences.
It would help them to modify their physical or behavioral selves to prevent similar losses in future. The programs equip them with the knowledge of identifying errors and on methods of fixing them efficiently. Management Involvement The most direct way for a construction company to improve profit margins is by preventing losses. A good management will encourage proper safety management even before the beginning of a project. It can plan for an accident-free environment. Commitment and involvement from the top executives will automatically seep into the workforce and will keep them motivated.
The management should be involved in the planning and implementation of safety protocols. The management should be thoroughly involved in developing safety planning. It should arrange for orientation of new employees. A crisis management program should be in place. Any untoward crisis should be dealt with decisively and quickly. The management can also work with subcontractors in instilling best practices in them without actually exposing their own organization to any additional liability. Solutions/Recommendations for Accidents Prevention
Accidents can be prevented to a large extent by following stringent security measures. The following points may be helpful in preventing crane accidents. • Only trained and qualified persons should be made to operate cranes. • The crane and all crane controls should be inspected by experienced and knowledgeable persons. • It must be ensured that the crane is on a firm and stable surface. • Pins shouldn’t be locked or unlocked while assembling or disassembling, unless the sections are blocked and stable. • The areas that fall within the radius of the crane’s swing should be barricaded.
• At least 10 foot distance should be maintained from overhead electric power lines. • All rigging should be thoroughly inspected before use. • Load chart pertaining to the crane’s configuration and setup should be strictly adhered to. • Before delivering the load, the test brake system should be checked. • Loads should never be moved over workers. • Screens or covers can be installed over moving parts. • Manufacturer’s instructions should be followed while operating cranes. • Personal protective equipment like gloves, taglines that guide the load, hard hats, safety shoes, lifelines and others should be in place.
• The operator should never leave the crane when the engine is running or when the platform is occupied. • Warning devices that detect hazards and send out signals should be installed. OSHA has identified different hazards associated with tower crane erection, dismantling and climbing work. It has clearly specified methods to eliminate, isolate, or minimize crane accidents. Appendices H & I clearly spell the approved code of practice for cranes. Being familiar with these guidelines is a good way to start accident prevention.

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New York University

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