CPWR: 22 Workers Die Annually From Crane-Related Incidents

June 18, 2008
According to a new report released by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), an annual average of 22 construction workers were killed in crane-related incidents from 1992 to 2006. The report offers recommendations to prevent additional fatalities, such as implementing a national certification program for crane operators and inspectors.

The report, which was authored by Director of Safety Research Michael McCann and two CPWR colleagues, draws on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The authors identified 323 construction worker deaths involving 307 crane incidents from 1992-2006, and also lists examples of crane incidents that resulted in both construction worker and bystander fatalities or injuries.

According to the report, the most common cause of death was overhead power line electrocutions, which represented 32 percent of crane-related fatalities. Half of all electrocutions were associated with the crane boom or cable contacting an overhead power line, while others involved a power line coming into contact with unspecified parts of the crane.

Crane collapses were the second leading cause of death at 21 percent. One-fifth of these incidents were caused by cranes sitting on an unstable, uneven or icy surface. Collapses caused by overloading the crane and shifting of the crane load or boom accounted for 16 percent and 8 percent of these fatalities, respectively.

Another 18 percent of fatalities were caused by a construction worker being struck by a crane boom/jib.


CPWR’s report notes that employees working for small contractors represented one-third of the total number of crane-related deaths from 1992-2006. More than half of the deaths were among construction laborers and heavy equipment operators, and mobile cranes were involved in most of the fatalities.

“Possible explanations for these findings are a lack of worker and supervisor training, lack of jobsite safety plans, lack of adequate crane inspections, and lack of proper investigation and reporting of crane accidents and fatalities,” the report read.

CPWR made eight recommendations in the report to help prevent create-related deaths:

  1. Crane operators should be certified by a nationally accredited crane operator testing organization, such as the National Commission for the Certifications of Crane Operators (NCCCO).
  2. Riggers who attach loads to cranes and signalpersons who audibly and visibly direct where the crane operator places the load should be certified.
  3. Crane inspectors also should be certified, and should have the same degree of qualification as crane operators.
  4. Cranes must be inspected thoroughly by a certified inspector after being assembled or modified, such as “jumping” a tower crane.
  5. Only trained workers should assemble, modify or disassemble cranes, and they should remain under the supervision of the person meeting both the definitions of a qualified and competent person.
  6. Crane loads should not be allowed to pass over street traffic. If rerouting is not possible, streets should be closed during the work.
  7. More complete reporting of data, particularly after a crane collapse, is necessary, and OSHA should conduct more thorough investigations of crane-related fatalities.
  8. After OSHA publishes the proposed crane and derrick standard in August 2008 for public comment, all efforts should be made to speed up the adoption of the standard and other recommendations.

Waiting for OSHA Standard

The Buildings and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, Greater New York Building Trades Council and the Operating Engineers Union joined CPWR in the release of the report and its recommendations.

“CPWR’s recommendations would benefit all construction workers, as well as those who live and work near cranes, if they are implemented nationwide,” said Mark H. Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

“We need to hold government accountable for its role in ensuring the lives of America’s workers,” said Vincent J. Giblin, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers. “We need OSHA to enforce the standards they have and create new standards where there is an obvious need.”

Ayers agreed that OSHA should step up to address these fatal crane-related incidents and help protect workers.

“OSHA needs to put in place its Safety Standards for Cranes and Derricks, which have been gathering dust at that agency for four years,” he said. “Meanwhile, more construction workers die, bystanders and first responders are injured, killed and put at risk, and we wait for OSHA to act.”

For more information, visit CPWR's Web site, http://www.cpwr.com.

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