Houston Crane Accident Lawyers
Protecting Workers Injured by Poor Crane Operation or Manufacture
Cranes, or derricks as they’re called in the offshore industry, are responsible for carrying extreme loads effectively by lifting them and moving them through a worksite. Any amount of negligence or recklessness on the part of the operator could cause the heavy load to plummet to the ground onto a bystander. Sadly, this happens more often than people may believe—dozens of workers are killed every year in crane accidents.
Due to the high-stakes nature of crane operations, accidents from crane failures or operator negligence are often fatal. The rate of fatality from improper crane use is startling—dozens of people die every year in crane accidents (between 72 and 97 according to data from 1997-2006). As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict regulations about how to operate cranes safely.
The Causes of Crane Accidents, According to Recent Data
OSHA regulations can prevent most crane accidents outright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ research into crane accidents found that 90% of injuries are caused by human error. Simply obeying manufacturer specifications would prevent dozens of deaths a year—80% of accidents are caused by exceeding the crane’s operational capacity. Below, we tell the story of a man who lost a limb because a foreman misused a crane.
These operational errors can be broken down into 4 categories that make up nearly all crane fatalities:
- Contact with object or equipment — 61%
- Falls — 20%
- Transportation incidents — 10%
- Contact with electrical currents — 8%
Because human error is as common as it is costly in these cases, crane accidents need to be brought to court in order to address those at fault. By seeking compensation, crane accident victims can reclaim past medical expenses, provide for future medical treatment, and receive punitive damages for mental anguish or trauma. They can also help ensure that their company never allows the accident to occur again.
Our Experience with Crane Accidents
One of Arnold & Itkin’s recent cases involved a man who was injured in a crane accident, requiring an amputation of his leg above the knee. Our client was standing more than 100 feet away from a crane that was being used to drill auger cast pilings. The drill became stuck, but the foreman demanded that the crane operator continue attempting to drill, despite the operator’s requests to stop.
The operator asked the foreman if he could stop the crane 5 times total. As a result of the foreman’s reckless attempt to value his deadline above the safety of his employees, the crane collapsed, pinning our client underneath heavy equipment. Our firm successfully fought on his behalf, securing a $44 million verdict—the largest amputee verdict in the nation.
Results like these are what we aim for with every accident case: securing our clients' futures while ensuring they'll get high-quality care.
How Is a Crane Designed?
Understanding how a crane works reveals why crane malfunctions are so costly. Each part of the crane is dependent on the others—meaning the failure of one part can result in the catastrophic failure of the whole mechanism.
There are three major components of a crane:
- The Lever
- The Pulley
- The Hydraulic Cylinder
The lever is what allows the crane to lift a heavy object without tipping over. This horizontal beam pivots around what is called a "fulcrum," or the point where one end of the lever transfers power to the other—essentially the center point of a see-saw. The heavy load goes on the shorter end, while the longer end applies force in the opposite direction. This design uses the principle of mechanical advantage. As long as the load's weight does not exceed the applied force, or the other way around, then the crane stays stable.
The pulley is an axle that the cable, wire, or belt moves around. These cables are wrapped around a fixed part of the crane, while also wrapping around the block that is attached to the load. The winding machine then pulls the free end (not attached to the crane or object being lifted), and the principle of mechanical advantage is used to ensure that the force of the load does not exceed the force of the crane itself.
The Hydraulic Cylinder
The hydraulic cylinder is what powers the lift of the load.
Common Types of Cranes
One of the more popular types of cranes is an overhead crane, commonly used in warehouses and factories. With these, there is a beam that runs along the ceiling with a hook and line mechanism. Steel is a commodity that wouldn't be able to be manufactured without an overhead crane. Many cranes are mounted on trucks, so that they are easily moveable on highways and other roads.
The lifting capacities of these cranes are typically a maximum of 1,300 short tons. Crawler cranes (more commonly: "crawlers") are mounted onto tracks, or tread belts wrapped around wheels (like tank treads). They are extremely heavy and difficult to move, which may cause injury. Floating cranes are commonly used in the offshore industry for the construction of bridges over water. They are typically mounted onto barges.