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Why are crane accidents still causing so many worker fatalities?

November's deadly crane accident in Queens has put crane safety in the spotlight. Two workers were killed when a crane cable snapped and dropped a 6,500-pound steel beam four stories. While the city continues to investigate, possible causes include cable failure due to the weight; also, the fatal accident occurred on a windy day, so weather may have been a factor.

After the accident, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that the council is concerned about the high rate of crane accidents, which have taken too many lives in New York. It leaves many asking why cranes are still so dangerous for construction workers.

Just two of many deaths this year

This tragic accident marks the second crane incident that has caused fatalities this year in New York City. These deaths are just a fraction of the total every year in the country. Crane accidents were involved in 25 deaths last year in the U.S., according to OSHA.

Cranes have the potential to do more damage than any other construction equipment, with some cranes exceeding 400 feet in length. This is especially true in New York where cranes must reach the tops of massive skyscrapers. When cranes tip, their sheer size can crush anything in their path. The enormity of the equipment isn't the only danger: a dropped object can cause tremendous damage, as shown in the recent Queens crane accident.

Deadly machines need skilled handlers

Gigantic equipment requires skilled workers to operate it. New York City is strict in its regulations regarding crane operators. In 2012, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg announced new licensing and testing requirements for all crane operators in the city. The changes required tougher and more frequent exams. The new rules are meant to keep workers up to date with new crane technology.

Yet even with some of the most strict crane operation guidelines, deadly accidents still occur. While sometimes crane accidents happen because of operator error, there can be many other factors. Common causes of crane accidents include:

  • Structural issues
  • Machine malfunctions
  • Bad weather
  • A weak foundation
  • Issues with the erection, extension or dismantling of the crane

Errors during the erection, extension or dismantling have been found to be the most common reasons for crane accidents. After long hours and working under a tight budget, some employees may feel pressure to cut corners to get the job done. When workers ignore safety measures, the repercussions can lead to incorrect calculations, which can result in deadly mistakes.

Many construction workers and their families have suffered due to safety neglect. Those workers or their families should contact an experienced attorney to learn their rights and to see whether they are entitled to money damages for their economic loss, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

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