The industrial revolution gave us taller buildings and skyscrapers that toy with the imagination and stun the eye. For every beautiful skyline, a row of cranes reach up and out like so many metallic arms. In some sense, these cranes are magnificent and a perfect demonstration of applied physics and geometry. Yet the scale of these real life erector sets can be dangerous, and not a few injuries and deaths result from crane mistakes and mishaps. These four stories trace a few of the crane accidents over the last several years.
Miami Crane Accident (March 2008)
Crane accidents can hit close to home. This past March, a seven-ton crane quite literally crashed into a home in Miami killing two construction workers and injuring five more. The crane was working to construct a 46-story high-rise at the scenic Biscayne Bay. Witnesses in the vicinity said that the crash felt and sounded like an earthquake. Unfortunately, similar accidents have occurred across the country.
New York City Crash and Subsequent Damages (March 2008)
It is not surprising that one of the world's most impressive cities has also experienced some of the worst crane collapses. One such event took place in March 15 of 2008. Initial reports were not hopeful as the two hundred foot crane crashed into several buildings and demolished a townhouse in the east side of Manhattan. Among the dead were two tourists from Florida who came to New York to enjoy St. Patrick's Day. Mayor Bloomberg himself reported this to be one of the worst crane accidents in the city's history.
Reports on this particular accident, about human error, allegations concerning false inspection reports, equipment failure and even thefts that resulted from the ensuing chaos in the amount of $90,000. These related woes highlight the chaotic and tragic nature of crane accidents. While men continually try to build, advance and reach higher, the natural elements and human error can bring everything to a crashing halt.
Bellevue, Washington Crane Collapse
In 2006, residents in Bellevue, Washington also experienced the devastation of a crane collapse. A normal evening at home was turned upside down when the crane crashed through their condo. One man was killed in this accident and the crane operator, who was in the crane when it collapsed, was injured.
The psychological effects of crane accidents were one notable result in this case. The crane operator himself was merely attempting to shut the crane down for the day when he heard a snap and plummeted with the crane. Similar to other incidents, the crane crashed into several buildings, mostly condos and homes. Several people witnessed the event and expressed understandable sentiments of terror and fear.
Manhattan Crane Drop (December 2007)
Many of the most damaging crane accidents are instances when the entire crane collapses. Yet another ominous risk looms above the city streets. Cranes are built to lift massive loads to impressive heights. The normal means of accomplishing such a task is with some form of lifting sling. The importance of these slings is inestimable. OSHA has written several codes and regulations to ensure safe lifting slings. A proper understanding of sling strength and application is crucial. Yet with all of these precautions, sling accidents have still happened, with tragic results.
In December of 2007 a sling carrying large load of metal studs weighing 14,000 lbs. snapped dropping the 30-foot studs thirteen floors to the streets below. The majority of the studs landed on two trailers that the construction company was using for offices. Five safety violations were cited to the responsible parties.
No member of the general public was harmed, but an architect working in one of the trailers was rushed to the emergency room with multiple serious injuries. The construction zone will be the future world headquarters for Goldman Sachs and is located near the reconstruction of the World Trade Center.
Because of the magnitude of these accidents and the liability of several parties involved in crane accidents, the Buildings Department has issued several new safety regulations for crane operations. A city inspector is required to be present at the time of major crane maneuvers - when it is assembled, jumped or dismantled. “Jumping" the crane is the process of building it higher during construction. Before each jump, a meeting is required between the contractor and the workers to prepare for the operation. In addition to these personnel requirements, new guidelines and protocols are provided for the construction workers and more detailed reports are required after the maneuver.
These particular regulations followed the case of the Manhattan drop, and have been instituted only in New York City. Each city must create its own safety regulations, and all cities have safety measures to differing degrees.
Unfortunately, each of these crane accidents had tragic results. Cranes don't operate in the forest, and if a crane falls in the city there is always a host of witnesses to hear it - and a host of victims. These particular accidents are a selection of the worst crane mishaps in the past two years. Destroyed homes, apartments, offices and lives are the casualties of this constructive aspiration. If you live in a city with frequent constructive activity and high cranes out your front window, be sure to contact your city's building department. Citizen concern can always improve the safety awareness of the community and even influence requirements and regulations. While children may enjoy playing with building blocks, these cranes are real. At this scale, no safety measure is too careful and no life too common.
Paul Galla, President
Industrial-Rigging, Industrial Solutions