In today’s construction and manufacturing industries, moving large, heavy loads is critical to operations. There has been a great deal of technology developed for this purpose, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires both careful training and extensive workplace precautions on job sites that utilize cranes. This is imperative because cranes and other lifting devices can be extremely dangerous not just for the operators, but for those working within close proximity to them.
OHSA in 2014 updated its standards for operator certification for safe operation of cranes and derricks. The requirement is that by Nov. 10, 2017, all crane operators must be certified, and employers have a duty to ensure crane operators are competent to operate a crane safely. How much that will help improve crane safety remains to be seen, but safer operators certainly will mean safer workplaces.
Recently in Seattle, a crane mishap on a construction site caused major property damage, though amazingly no worker injuries.
According to The Seattle Times, a crane cable snapped at a construction site near Pike Place Market, sending debris tumbling down through the job site and onto the bicycle of a passing commuter. Not coincidentally, this was the same site that a local union had picketed a year earlier for an array of hazards and for allowing workers to toil in unsafe conditions.
Amazingly, no one was hurt as a result of the incident, which happened where crews were busy constructing a mid-rise apartment building. Snapshots of the site taken right after the incident show the cable, broken or frayed, hanging from the tower several stories above the street. Underneath, pieces of wood and other heavy construction materials were all over the road, some shattered or in disarray as a result of the impact.
Business owners nearby were shaken, with one commenting the construction company had “really dodged a bullet” with the fact there were no injured workers or passersby.
There were certainly plenty of people on site that day. One witness said that there was first a loud crash. Someone spied about 40 workers who were initially stunned, “frozen in their tracks,” and then who quickly dropped their tools and everything they were working on and ran from the job site as fast as they could. Within a matter of a minute, the entire site mirrored a ghost town. The passing bicyclist, incredibly, was not injured when some of the debris struck his tire.
The general contractor on site later released a statement indicating the cable had failed, but the company had yet to figure out why. The company was working with both the state as well as the supplier of the crane in its investigation.
In a case like this, had there been a worker injury, a worker and/or surviving family may have grounds not just for a workers’ compensation claim, but also for a third-party liability lawsuit, either against the owner of the property or the crane manufacturer (if a defect in the crane was found to have been a causal factor in the work accident).
State officials said it could take up to six months to complete the investigation.
The workers who picketed the site months earlier said many were not adequately trained for safety. Although the complaints mostly focused on one of the subcontractors (and not the one in charge of crane operations), it is the general contractor responsible for all worker safety issues.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Crane mishap sends debris crashing through Seattle construction site where workers had raised safety concerns, April 12, 2017, By Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times
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N.C. Employer to Pay Workers’ Compensation, Pay Penalty for Denial, April 12, 2017, Carolina Work Accident Lawyer Blog