Every year, dozens of workers are reportedly injured when a crane on their job site collapses. Injuries happen not just to the men and women operating the cranes, but also to the workers on the ground, even those who are believed to be a safe distance from the site of the crane work. As in this fatal accident summery by OSHA most crane accidents involving a collapse happen with the crane boom breaks or malfunctions. OSHA reports here that 8% of all crane incidents are cause by the boom on a crane buckling or collapsing. This is the leading cause of crane accidents after electrocution and problems during crane assembly or disassembly. Unfortunately, many times, these boom collapse-related injuries and deaths could have been prevented.
The boom is the arm of a crane, and for many, this is the most recognizable feature of a crane. Not all cranes have booms, but in the construction industry, and even in most factories, there is usually at least one crane with a boom on site. Cranes without booms, such as those on tracks or floor supports that work overhead can also collapse if not used properly.
One of the biggest reasons that a boom collapses is improper blocking. Also known as “cribbing,” blocking is the use of wood or metal supports to stabilize and balance loads that are lifted off of the ground. Blocking is extremely important, especially with latticework booms. Without blocking, the unbalanced load will shift and move unpredictably, which in and of itself is dangers. If the load gains momentum and twists or swings, the boom may not be able to withstand the movement and can collapse.
A boom can also collapse if the load being picked up is too large. All cranes have weight limits. While it is the responsibility of the crane operator to track load weight, it is also the responsibility of the employer to train crane operators on proper load maximum weights. The load weight is typically most important for making sure that the crane doesn’t tip over. Cranes use counterweight and outrigging systems to ensure that the crane’s weight is balanced. If you exceed the maximum weight, it is most likely that the crane will tip over before the crane’s boom will collapse (both are dangerous situations). That said, some workers or employers add additional weight to cranes to prevent tipping over while exceeding the maximum weight limits. This is extremely dangerous. A crane is only meant to withstand a certain amount of weight, and if you attempt to pick up more, the boom could collapse, even if you use excess counterweight to prevent tipping over. If you have been injured in a crane accident due to a boom collapse contact a crane accident lawyer today. Always verify weights and listen to LMI systems and overload indicators to ensure that you are staying within a safe range for the crane you are using.
Crane injuries can usually be attributed to improper employee training or disregard for the training received. You can find tons of tips on preventing crane injuries, including boom collapse, in this document from the National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health, but the most important safety tip is to make sure that everyone on your job site, include you, is trained and following proper safety procedures.