crane and derrick
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Crane and Derrick Worksite Hazards

Operating cranes and derricks are part and parcel of heavy construction. Unfortunately, they are also two of the greatest safety and liability hazards on any worksite. OSHA estimates nearly 100 lives lost every year due to accidents with these pieces of equipment. Ground crew members are more likely to be killed in crane accidents than operators. This is why the organization has fairly rigid standards in place to protect the lives of workers who deal with this heavy machinery.

Causes of Accidents

There are a multitude of causes for crane and derrick-related accidents. These include the obvious risks of falling debris or being caught between machines, but also include electrocution, accidents during assembly and disassembly, and risks of machines overturning or collapsing on workers. Falling is one of the biggest risks for operators.

The sheer number of mishaps on job sites is a major cause of concern, both for workers in danger and for company owners who are concerned about liability and safety issues. Workers’ compensation claims and issues involved with deaths on site can cost companies millions of dollars, and the emotional and human cost can be much higher.


Current OSHA standards put in place roughly five years ago address electrocution, which accounts for over 25% of all fatalities from crane mishaps. When a crane strikes a power line, all those in the near vicinity, save the insulated operator, are in danger of being electrocuted. The new rules require that a crane must be a minimum of 20 feet distant from any power line.

Other requirements under the current safety standards include pre-inspecting all parts of tower cranes before erecting the machinery and using synthetic slings during the assembly, per manufacturer instructions for a given crane. The regulations included on the OSHA site include detailed descriptions and explanations of any equipment the rule addresses.

Broad-Reaching Impact

These rules affect roughly 4.8 million construction workers. Before they were put in place, there were a significant number of accidents and fatalities from derrick and crane mishaps. In 2008, New York City alone had nine such incidents, two of which took place within a few weeks and a few blocks apart. The rules are expected to reduce injuries by nearly 200 per year and deaths by over 20 per year.

Of those rules with the largest impact is a new regulation that all crane operators must be certified to operate their machinery. In addition, any riggers or signal workers are required to be certified by an accredited program or through another qualified evaluator. Such LIUNA training programs are available all over the nation.

Implementing proper safety procedures is vital to maintaining a smooth and strong workforce and job site. These regulations for crane and derrick use should never be taken lightly, and all workers should be trained in procedures to keep the job site secure.

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