Nearly 90 crane-related fatalities occur each year at construction sites. A 1997 study by The Center to Protect Workers� Rights examined the causes of crane-related deaths occurring from 1984 through 1994. The authors retrieved data from OSHA�s Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) to identify the number of fatal accidents involving cranes and determine their causes (see Figure 1). They found 479 accidents involving 502 fatalities.
Figure 1. Causes of crane fatalities, 1984�1994. From "Crane-Related Deaths in the U.S. Construction Industry, 1984�94," published by The Center to Protect Workers� Rights, 1997.
In 2006, the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management published an article which analyzed crane accidents that occurred between 1997 and 2003. Figure 2 shows the leading causes according to this more recent study.
Figure 2. Causes of crane fatalities, 1997�2003. From "Crane-Related Fatalities in the Construction Industry," published in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, vol. 132 no. 9, September 2006.
Although inadequate mobile crane lift planning is not listed as a cause category, I suspect that it encompasses most, if not all, of the causal factor categories mentioned in both studies. Establishing criteria for critical lifts, preparing formal lift plans, understanding the factors that affect rated capacities of mobile cranes, ensuring equipment is in good condition, and ensuring only qualified and trained personnel operate the equipment are all important components in preventing mobile crane failures.
Critical Lift Planning
All crane lifts require some level of planning, whether the load is a mere half-ton or more than 2,000 tons. Even non-critical lifts require knowledge of the weight of the load (and other components considered to be part of the load), the configuration of the crane, the rated capacity of the crane at its lift configuration, and factors that may affect the crane�s rated capacity in order to make a go/no-go decision. However, critical lifts require more extensive planning and oversight by qualified persons.
The first step in establishing a corporate mobile crane lift-planning requirement is to define the term �critical lift.� According to the Construction Safety Association of Ontario, a critical lifts is one where the load weight is heavier than 75 percent of the rated capacity (Campbell and Dickie, 227). Other examples of critical lifts include the following:
On October 3, 2008, OSHA published a proposed rule for cranes and derricks in construction in the Federal Register. This proposed rule was developed by industry representatives serving on the Cranes and Derricks Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. The proposed rule includes provisions for qualifying and certifying operators and inspection and maintenance of equipment, among other provisions related to crane and derrick operations in construction.
Use of a pre-list checklist when planning and executing a lift ensures that all considerations affecting the crane�s rated capacity have been considered. If a lift cannot be made under the configuration and conditions specified in the lift plan, the lift should be re-evaluated and approved by a qualified person. Ensure that a process in place to verify that operators have minimum training, experience, proficiency, and medical fitness for the type of crane they will operate. Also, make certain that crane and rigging components are in good condition through a comprehensive inspection and preventive maintenance program. Finally, formal written lift plans should be required for all critical lifts.
Beavers, J.E., J.R. Moore, R. Rinehart, and W.R. Schrivers: "Crane-Related Fatalities in the Construction Industry." Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 132:901�910 (2006).
Campbell, D.H., and E.D. Dickie: Mobile Crane Manual. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Construction Safety Association of Ontario, 1982.
Garby, R.: IPT�s Crane and Rigging Training Manual. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: IPT Publishing and Training Ltd., 1999.
Suruda, A., M. Egger, D. Liu: "Crane-Related Deaths in the U.S. Construction Industry, 1984�94." The Center to Protect Workers� Rights (Report No. D2-97), 1997.
Jerome Spear is President of J.E. Spear Consulting, LP, located in Magnolia, Texas, and has over 19 years of experience helping organizations prevent injuries and illnesses, control losses, and achieve regulatory compliance. He is certified (in construction aspects) by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and is also certified (in comprehensive practice) by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. Spear held the positions of Corporate Industrial Hygiene Manager for a worldwide engineering and construction company and Technical Services Manager for a major insurance company. He is the current chair of the American Industrial Hygiene Association Construction Committee.
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