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.
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 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 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. They are especially important in steel manufacturing.
- Truck mounted cranes are easily movable. 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).
- Floating cranes are commonly used in the offshore industry for the construction of bridges over water.
Examples of What Causes Crane Accidents
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.
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.
Common Injuries Suffered in Crane Accidents
- Broken or fractured bones
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Crush injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back injuries
Crane injuries generally occur when a worker is struck by an object on the crane or that has fallen off. Those types of injuries account for nearly two-thirds of all crane injuries. In fact, only 10% of crane injuries are suffered by the crane operator, meaning bystanders are at the greatest risk.
Hazards Posed by Cranes & How to Use Them Safely
Cranes provide a number of essential services in many industries such as construction, manufacturing, maritime, and transportation. Although they greatly increase efficiency, they also carry a significant danger to their operators and those nearby. In light of the high percentage of incidents in relation to the number of workers exposed to the machinery, OSHA listed crane and hoist safety as a high priority topic of discussion in 1994. This distinction has led to the development and implementation of a number of safety measures for crane operators.
Safety measures to reduce crane accidents include the following:
- Automatic alarm if fire is detected
- Automatic crane shutdown if fire is detected
- Boom tip camera to increase visibility and minimize blind spots
- Brake redundancy, with an extra brake in place in the case that one should fail
- Fail-safe brakes which automatically brake if the control system fails
- Hands-off communication system to keep both hands on controls
- Hydraulic system which enables maintenance of hydraulic refilling
- Load holding valves which protect against movement if a hose should rupture
- Manual emergency stop command which overrides all other commands
- Two-way communication systems
Training and communication are key in maintaining a safe environment around a working crane. Workers must be able to communicate any issues, plans for executing work, and hazards that may arise. Signage is also important to warn other employees of any areas inside the danger zone of an operating crane. Blind spots and low visibility can make it difficult for operators to see other workers, so it is imperative that all workers understand the risks involved with cranes, even if they are not operators themselves.
Arnold & Itkin's 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 five 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.
Call (888) 493-1629 to Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Firm
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a crane accident, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. In many crane accidents, there are several different parties that could potentially be held liable for your injuries. At Arnold & Itkin, our team of personal injury lawyers has the knowledge and experience to prosecute even the most complex crane accident cases. In a recent example, we took a crane accident case all the way to trial and won a $44 million verdict for our client. We have helped dockworkers, mariners, and other workers across the U.S. to recover from serious incidents and seek compensation for the negligence that contributed to their injuries.
Contact our work injury attorneys today for a free case evaluation. Call us at (888) 493-1629.