With a construction boom underway in Denver, tower cranes seem to be a permanent part of our skyline. At any given time more than two dozen tower cranes may be up in downtown Denver. With so many cranes operating, and the news of deadly crane collapses in Dallas and Seattle, the issue of crane safety is worth considering. As Denver accident attorneys, we are committed to educating our clients and potential clients about resources that may impact their personal and professional lives. We are also experienced in helping our clients to maximize their recovery following a construction accident
Construction zones can be dangerous places, and accidents can range from minor to catastrophic and frequently result in serious injury or death. Heavy machinery, including cranes, on construction sites, presents risks for workers, as well as the public. The leading cause of crane-related injuries is crane collapse, with operator error being the root cause of most collapses. That cranes are becoming even larger (some are more than 300 feet tall) and more sophisticated, and are being operated in close proximity to pedestrians and drivers, is a recipe for disaster, unless the construction crew is extremely careful. Important safety measures including setting a wind level at which the crane must be brought down, crane operator education about potential hazards at the site, such as utilities, and technology advances in modern-day mobile cranes (limit switches, video cameras), should go a long way to improving crane safety going forward.
Federal and State Regulations on Cranes
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the governing regulatory body for construction site safety and oversees the regulation of cranes. All cranes are required to be “weathervane,” meaning that when there are high winds, crane operators are supposed to release a swing brake so the giant boom can freely spin. However, there are no blanket regulations about when a crane needs to be brought down into safety mode.
OSHA requires annual inspections of cranes and, as of November 10, 2018, all crane operators must be certified by an accredited body such as the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). As of February 7, 2019, employers must evaluate their crane operators according to specified criteria and a stipulated process. As of April 15, 2019, employers must ensure all documentation relating to their evaluations is current.
Colorado is not one of the 16 states with licensing requirements for crane operators.
What Can be Done to Make Cranes Safer?
Some crane experts have suggested having the city in which the crane is operating set a wind level at which the crane must be brought down into safety mode, but deferring to the crane manufacturer’s specifications if they recommend lowering the crane even in lower wind speeds.
Crane operators must ask the site superintendent about any hazards such as utilities.
Crane manufacturers are trying to build in new automatic features to improve safety, including switches to limit operators from moving loads deemed too heavy for the crane. Many tower and mobile cranes now come equipped with video cameras to show views of the loads and work zones.