Cranes are a staple on construction sites. They make lifting and moving heavy materials look easy. But as useful as cranes are, they can also be quite dangerous when something goes wrong. Even with improved safety features and training, crane accidents still occur more often than you’d think.
Knowing the most common types of crane accidents can help you stay safe around these massive machines. In this guide, we’ll break down the typical causes of crane mishaps and go over tips to avoid them on the worksite. Buckle up, this crane safety deep dive will be an enlightening ride!
The Startling Statistics Around Crane Accidents
Let’s start by looking at some key stats on crane accident fatalities between 2011-2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- 154 fatalities from being struck by an object or equipment
- 41 fatalities caused by falls to a lower level
- 39 fatalities stemming from transportation incidents like collisions
Those three types alone account for a staggering 234 deaths, making up the vast majority of crane accident fatalities.
Drilling down further, BLS data shows that Texas experienced the most crane-related deaths from 2011-2017 with 50 fatalities. Florida and New York were next with 16 fatalities each, followed by California and Illinois with 14 each.
So those are some of the topline figures, but what’s actually causing all these crane accidents? Let’s explore some of the most common mishap varieties so you know what to watch out for on the worksite.
The 6 Most Common Kinds of Crane Accidents
1. Getting Clobbered by the Crane or Its Load
The most frequent type of deadly crane accident happens when a worker gets clobbered by an object or piece of equipment. This often occurs when:
- A swinging crane boom or load smashes into someone
- Someone is struck by a falling load
- Crane movements aren’t controlled properly
To avoid crane collisions on the worksite, always obey signs and the signals of spotters. Avoid walking near large equipment, and stick to designated paths so you don’t wander into the crane’s swing radius. Barricades should be set up to keep unauthorized people away from operating cranes.
Proper load rigging is also crucial – you don’t want materials slipping loose and crashing down! Review safety procedures before the day’s lifts so everyone is on the same page.
2. Taking a Tragic Fall from the Crane
Falls from cranes accounted for 41 deaths between 2011-2017. These usually happen when:
- Proper fall protection like harnesses isn’t in place
- Workers fall while climbing on the crane
- Operators slip and fall during entry or exit
To prevent tumbles off cranes, operators should always maintain 3 points of contact when getting in and out of the cab. Mandatory fall arrest systems are also essential, so if someone does lose their footing at height, the harness and lanyard will save them.
3. Getting Caught in Crane Transportation Accidents
39 people died from crane transportation mishaps over the 6 years. These incidents typically involve:
- The crane colliding with vehicles, structures or other equipment
- The crane operator losing control and hitting an obstacle
- Visibility issues leading to collisions
Effective communication with spotters and ensuring the path is clear goes a long way in stopping these accidents. Crane operators should take wide turns and drive slowly. Eliminate blind spots by designating someone to guide the crane’s movements.
4. When Cranes Tip Over
Given their immense size and heavy loads, it’s actually rare for cranes to tip over. But tipovers can still happen when:
- The load exceeds the crane’s weight capacity
- Outriggers aren’t extended or positioned correctly
- The ground surface is uneven or unable to support the crane
Always follow the crane’s load chart to avoid overloading. Make sure to correctly deploy outriggers, per the manufacturer’s instructions. For rough or sloped terrain, a rough terrain crane with huge treaded tires is a safer bet.
5. Structural Failure of the Crane
While flipping tipovers get more attention, deadly collapses from broken crane components are also a threat. Some causes include:
- Excessive loads beyond the crane’s limits
- Defective or worn down structural parts
- Booms, cables and other elements cracking under pressure
You can prevent these structural failures by staying within the crane’s recommended capacity. Daily inspections and preventive maintenance will also reveal any defective or degraded components before an accident occurs.
6. Getting Electrocuted by Power Lines
This gruesome crane accident happens when:
- A crane boom or load contacts live power lines
- Electricity flows through the crane and electrocutes the operator
De-energizing power lines around the job site is the best protection. Maintain a 10 foot minimum clearance from any lines. You can also use an insulated link or barrier between the load and power source. Assume all overhead lines are energized unless confirmed otherwise.
Tips for Staying Safe Around Cranes
Now that you know the most common types of crane accidents, let’s review some key tips to avoid them:
- Only properly trained and certified operators should run cranes
- Never walk under a suspended load – stay clear of the lift zone
- Clearly mark the crane’s swing radius with barricades or spotters
- Maintain 3 points of contact when entering or exiting the operator cab
- Follow the crane’s load charts to avoid overloading
- Use hand signals from qualified signal persons to direct crane movements
- Inspect equipment and rigging daily prior to starting work
- Keep fire extinguishers nearby in case of electrical or engine fires
- Know what to do if the crane starts tipping – don’t try to jump!
Crane safety involves coordination between operators, managers, riggers, and all personnel on site. If you look out for each other and follow safe protocols, you’ll avoid becoming another troubling statistic.
Cranes are incredible, almost dinosaur-like machines that allow us to move and lift loads we couldn’t manage otherwise. But their immense power comes with considerable danger if something goes amiss.
While crane accidents have declined with improved safety regulations, they still occur across many worksites each year. Knowing the common types of crane mishaps allows you to recognize hazards and work to prevent them.
The casualties from a single crane accident can be devastating, especially if multiple workers or bystanders are involved. That’s why it’s so important to make crane safety a top priority. With proper training, procedures, and vigilance around these heavy machines, you’ll be able to do your job efficiently while making it home safe each day.