Fatal Crane Accident Prompts New Regulations in NYC

craneIn the wake of last week’s fatal crane accident in New York City, the city has announced new regulations that would prohibit operating these cranes in winds that exceed 20 miles per hour, or gusts of up to 30 miles per hour.

Excessive winds are thought to be the main culprit in last week’s accident. Workers were moving the 500-foot crane, which was replacing generators on a building, to a safer location when the machine collapsed on the street below, killing a 38-year-old man.

Previously, such cranes could operate until measured wind speeds reached 30 m.p.h. or gusts increased to 40 m.p.h., although individual manufacturers may set stricter standards. The new rules, while temporary, will be in effect until a task force can determine more long-term regulations that will consider all the possible causes of the accident.

According to OSHA, the agency has investigated 13 fatal accidents involving cranes in the past five years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has similar statistics. The most common hazards leading to serious injuries and fatalities are crane tip-overs, being struck by a crane, electrocutions, being caught in between a crane and other equipment or objects, and falls from the equipment.OSHA’s analysis also identified the major causes of crane accidents to include boom or crane contact with energized power lines (nearly 45% of the cases).

Specifically, OSHA cites lack of adequate guidance to employers, poor maintenance and poor worker training for accidents and fatalities. In many of these cases, cranes were not maintained properly nor inspected regularly to ensure safe operation.

NIOSH has identified certain types of hoisting operations that require special considerations to ensure worker safety. In the crane and rigging community, the term critical lift is commonly used to describe these situations: “A critical lift generally identifies hoisting operations for which the margin for error is reduced.” Critical lifts include the following situations:

  • The weight of the hoisted load approaches the crane’s maximum capacity (70% to 90%).
  • Two or more cranes simultaneously lift the same load.
  • Personnel are being hoisted.
  • Nonstandard or specially modified crane configurations are used.
  • Special hazards are associated with the lift, such as the crane is located inside an industrial plant; the crane(s) is mounted on floating barges; loads are lifted close to powerlines; and high winds or other environmental conditions are present.

NIOSH emphasizes however, that the definition of a critical lift is not as important as the planning necessary to safely perform the lift.

Mobile crane and hoisting hazards are addressed by OSHA standards found in Title 29 CFR‡: general industry (29 CFR 1910.180), maritime (29 CFR 1918.66), marine (29 CFR 1917.45), long shoring, and construction (29 CFR 1926.550).

Title 29, CFR 1910.180 and 1926.550 require rated load capacities, recommended operating speeds, special hazard warnings, and instructions to be conspicuously posted on all equipment and visible to the operator while at the control station. Title 29, CFR 1910.180(e)(2)(ii) requires that test loads must not exceed 110% of the rated capacity for a particular boom length and radius.

Last week’s accident brings new urgency to the issue of crane safety on construction sites and will undoubtedly become a high priority for the safety industry. For more information, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.


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