Every so often, a crane accident makes headline news, but many more such tragedies go unnoticed by the public. As the nation’s fourth largest city, Houston is constantly under construction, with industrial machinery doing most of the heavy lifting. In addition to roadwork and building, cranes are also frequently used in the area’s many refineries, where tons of materials are moved on an ongoing basis.
A crane accident not only has the potential to cause millions of dollars in material damages, but frequently also results in injury or even death to operators or workers on the ground. In any given year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are an average of 22 fatalities and 175 injuries per year.
In 2010, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) released a report analyzing a total of 85 major incidents that occurred worldwide between 1989 and 2009. The HSE identified seven common causes:
Problems associated with the erection, dismantling or extension of the machinery
Issues related to extreme weather conditions
Structural and mechanical problems
Problems with the control or electrical system
Other, unknown causes
Incidents caused by equipment failure and human error often result in litigation in an attempt to hold responsible parties accountable for injury and loss of life. There have been cases where experienced attorneys managed to win financial compensation for their clients, including damages for medical expenses, loss of companionship or quality of life, pain and suffering, and more.
After a crane accident claimed the lives of four people at a refinery in Pasadena, TX, in 2008, OSHA found that the incident resulted from a boom stop failure, causing the machinery to collapse. Two workers toppled to their deaths, while two more on the ground were crushed by thousands of tons of steel. OSHA subsequently determined that the Deep South Crane & Rigging Company failed to comply with industry standards because the design of the boom stops did not prevent the boom from falling backward.
Property damage as well as personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits resulted from this incident.
It is an undisputed fact that working in the oil and gas industry can prove to be a hazardous way to make a living. According to a study by the University of Nebraska, the likelihood of a crane accident resulting from human error is 66%. These incidents are often caused by stress, fatigue, insufficient training, or lack of safety precautions.
In recent years, OSHA developed new industry standards in hopes of preventing or at least reducing the number of crane incidents resulting from equipment coming in contact with power lines, workers being caught in or struck by machinery and materials, equipment turnovers, and unsafe work procedures.