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Common Types of Crane Accidents & Injury Statistics

Even with advanced safety features and strict safety guidelines, accidents still occur when cranes are operated. And while crane accidents can’t be prevented entirely, they can be mitigated when the proper precautions are taken. Keep reading to learn about common types of crane accidents and how to prevent them.

Table of Contents

Types of Cranes & Their Functions

When it comes to cranes, there are two main categories: mobile and fixed. Learn more about each below.

1. Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes are mounted on wheels and can move freely between locations. Here are three common types of mobile cranes.

  • Crawler Crane: Uses a tracked undercarriage to carry loads, which enhances the weight distribution to allow for greater stability and mobility
  • Hydraulic Crane: Uses a hydraulic system to carry loads in various construction, industrial, and material handling applications
  • All-Terrain Crane: Built for both roads and off-road terrain, these cranes are extremely mobile, stable, and have a high lift capacity

2. Fixed Cranes

Fixed cranes are permanently attached to the ground and move loads along a fixed path. Three common types of fixed cranes include:

  • Tower Crane: Has a high lifting capacity and reach that enable it to accommodate heavy loads at tall heights
  • Jib Crane: Featuring a horizontal arm—or jib—that rotates, this crane lifts and moves loads within confined spaces
  • Overhead Crane: Mounted on an overhead beam, this crane offers efficient lifting in various settings

Become a Certified Mobile Crane Operator

Our Certificate of Heavy Equipment Operations – Mobile Crane program is designed to give you both practical experience and classroom interaction when it comes to the fundamentals of crane operation. 

Our programs are accelerated and can be completed in as quickly as three weeks.

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Fatality Stats for Crane Accidents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 297 deaths involving cranes between 2011 and 2017, putting the annual average of crane-related deaths at 42.

 

  • Just over 50% of these fatalities involved a worker being struck by an object or piece of equipment.
  • 43% of fatal work injuries involving cranes took place in the private construction industry.
  • 24% of fatal work injuries involving cranes took place in the manufacturing industry.

This chart outlines how many fatalities occurred in the five states with the most crane-related fatalities.

State of Incident Number of Fatalities
Texas
50
Florida
16
New York
16
California
14
Illinois
14

The Most Common Types of Crane Accidents

Here’s a breakdown of the most common types of crane accidents, along with their causes and prevention tips.

1. Boom Failure or Boom Collapse

Causes

  • The boom is overextended, causing failure under heavy loads
  • Excess pressure on the hydraulic, mechanical, and structural components can cause the crane to collapse

 

Prevention

  • Don’t overextend the boom
  • Don’t place excess pressure on the individual components

2.Contact With Overhead Power Lines

Causes

  • Operating too closely to power lines
  • Failure to assess the work area and remove obstructions or eliminate hazards

Prevention

  • De-energize any power lines near the work site so power doesn’t flow through them during crane operation
  • Utilize independent insulated barriers to block potential electrical shocks
  • Ensure proper clearance between the crane, the load, and any nearby power lines

3. Dropped Load

Causes

  • Exceeding the crane’s load capacity caused overloading
  • Securing the load incorrectly
  • Having an unbalanced load

Prevention

  • Stay within the crane’s load capacity
  • Properly secure the load
  • Balance the load

4. Falling From the Crane

Causes

  • A worker falls from the crane’s cab level to a lower level

Prevention

  • Implement fall protection systems to keep workers safe.
  • PPE (personal protective equipment): Wear a hard hat, work boots, safety glasses, safety vest, and gloves at all times.
  • Fall arrest system: Workers are strapped onto a harness and a lanyard that will support them if they were to fall from the cab level.

5. Tipping Over

Causes

  • Extreme winds
  • An uneven ground layer
  • Exceeded load capacity
  • Incorrectly used outriggers

Prevention

  • Abide by the crane’s load chart to avoid exceeding the load capacity
  • Ensure that the outriggers are positioned correctly before placing a load onto the crane
  • Verify the crane’s maximum wind speed to ensure the load can be lifted safely
  • Only operate the crane on level ground, unless it’s equipped with tires that are designed specifically for rough terrain

6. Structural Failure

Causes

  • Putting excess pressure on the mechanical components
  • Exceeding the load capacity

Prevention

  • Don’t overload the crane
  • Perform routine inspections and maintenance checks to identify any malfunctioning or broken components

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Top 9 Crane Safety Guidelines for Heavy Equipment Operation

  1. Complete crane training: Workers who are properly trained to operate individual crane types have the knowledge and confidence needed to operate them safely.
  2. Select the right crane for the job: Different cranes are designed for different applications. Using the wrong crane for the application at hand can be hazardous for everyone involved.
  3. Abide by all OSHA regulations: Safety guidelines exist for a reason—to protect the crane operator and other workers involved for the entirety of the project. Stay within these guidelines to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.
  4. Know the owner’s manual inside and out: The owner’s manual contains everything you need to know about preparing, operating, and maintaining the crane. These instructions not only ensure correct operation and keep workers safe but also keep the crane in tip-top shape for years to come—saving work crews money in the long run.
  5. Perform routine maintenance: Well-maintained heavy equipment lasts longer and keeps workers safe. Routine maintenance checks allow operators to inspect the equipment for any abnormalities that need fixing before operation.
  6. Remove obstructions: Obstructions like power lines and other equipment pose a serious safety risk to crane operators and other workers. That’s why it’s essential to perform a thorough inspection of the job site to identify any obstructions that should be removed before operating the crane.
  7. Stay within the crane’s load capacity: Exceeding the crane’s weight capacity for an individual load can cause various problems, like tipping cranes and dropping loads. Check the owner’s manual for the crane’s load capacity, and be careful not to exceed it for the safety of everyone involved.
  8. Stabilize the crane: Mobile cranes require specialized equipment to keep them from tipping over. Reference the owner’s manual to implement the manufacturer’s guidelines for crane stabilization.
  9. Communicate clearly with other workers: Crane safety protocol outlines hand signals that the operator and other workers involved should use to communicate with each other throughout the project. These hand signals reduce the risk of potentially harmful miscommunications.

Key OSHA Crane Regulations

Employers and operators must follow all crane-related OSHA regulations to mitigate workplace risks and avoid potential litigation. Here are the primary regulations that should be followed:

  • 1926.1402(c): Operators must ensure that ground conditions on the job site are adequate for crane operation.
  • 1926.1407-1409: Employers and operators must supply voltage information for any work taking place near power lines on the job site.
  • 1926.1412: The designated crane inspector should perform all actions specified, including daily and monthly equipment inspections listed in 1926.1401.
  • 1926.1428: Employers must ensure that designated signal workers meet all qualifications as specified in 1926.1419-1422.
  • 1926.1427: Employers must ensure that crane operators are qualified to operate the equipment.

Become a Certified Crane Operator at HEC

Are you ready to become a certified crane operator? Find a Heavy Equipment Colleges of America (HEC) location near you. With crane programs offered in California, Georgia, and Oklahoma, getting trained has never been more convenient. All programs can be completed in as little as three weeks. That way, you can kickstart your career in no time.

 

Start the enrollment process today to get one step closer to the future you want.

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