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Texas Lawsuit Illustrates Complexity of Safe Crane Operation

In October 2011, a Longview, Texas, oil-rig worker brought a lawsuit in federal court for damages from injuries suffered in a crane accident. The suit reportedly accuses the rig’s owner of negligence and gross negligence in the incident during which the worker was allegedly hit by 5,000 pounds of winches during a lift attempt.

Crane operation is a highly hazardous occupation given the weight of the cranes themselves (counted in tons) and of the freight they lift. Cranes are both mobile and towering, and use the science of leverage for lifting heavy materials in construction and industrial settings. Types of common crane accidents involve:

  • Tip-overs from unstable ground, high wind, barge list (leaning) or lifts in excess of crane capacity
  • Boom (lifting arm) or cable collapses from unsafe assembly or rigging, or attempts to lift more weight than the crane design can support
  • Workers struck by out-of-control loads or crane parts often causing crushing injuries
  • Electrocution from overhead live power lines
  • Accidents during crane assembly or disassembly
  • Falls
  • Various incidents related to improper maintenance

According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 89 U.S. crane-related deaths occur annually in construction accidents. Interestingly, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that from 2003 to 2006, Texas had the highest number of crane-related occupational fatalities at 42.

After a 12-year process, OSHA recently updated federal regulations governing safe work standards when cranes are used in construction. The new rules were effective on November 8, 2010, reflecting design advances in crane equipment and instituting tougher training, worker certification and inspection (of equipment and work zones) requirements.

According to J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc., a company that advises businesses on safety-standard compliance, crane safety has four major factors:

  • Crane design and lifting specifications
  • "Operating environment"
  • Crane operator training
  • Crane maintenance

Negligence or recklessness in any of these areas may create liability on the part of an employer, business, individual or equipment manufacturer. If you have been injured or if your loved one lost his or her life in a crane accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can educate you about your legal options.

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