Greater Houston’s population has expanded significantly since the 1970s. That growing population has attracted a disproportionate number of construction and renovation companies. As a result, there is about as much work for these companies today as there was fifty years ago.
What’s the bottom line? The Harris County construction industry is more competitive than ever. Since profit margins are so thin, a few dollars saved or spent on a particular project could be the difference between making money and losing money. Construction crane safety is, for many companies, a good place to cut corners. That economic environment, along with South Texas’ unpredictable and extreme weather, makes a construction crane a dangerous place to work.
At Williams Hart, our dedicated construction crane accident lawyers care little about money. Instead, our focus is on victims. Frequently, these victims feel that their safety took a back seat to corporate profits. We do more than help these individuals obtain compensation for their injuries. We help these workers regain their dignity.
Common Safety Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issues more citations for unsafe crane operation than any other safety violation. Fall hazards and unsafe elevators and lifts are not too far behind.
Many of these infractions involve sway control. At heights greater than ten stories, actual wind speeds increase exponentially. The effect is especially pronounced at forty or fifty stories. Cranes have different wind tolerance levels from buildings. So, people working on cranes are especially at risk.
Many employers do not understand that better sway control measures improve worker productivity. Crane operators focus entirely on their jobs instead of dividing their attention between the task at hand and safety measures. But many employers only see a dollar figure. So, they cut corners.
Snag prevention is basically a failsafe device. Any issue with the load causes the cran to shut down.
As a general rule, employers hate such devices. They avoid anything that slows down the work. Failsafes which cause the work to stop are even worse. Many OSHA snag prevention citations involve unauthorized employer tampering with existing safety equipment.
The third major OSHA crane safety infraction is hook centering. Workers sometimes erroneously load cargo onto the crane at ground level. The cargo shifts as the crane operator pulls it up. If winds are stronger than idle, these issues are practically inevitable.
Hook centering does not prevent accidents themselves. But this safety protocol decreases the severity of an accident. To be blunt, with proper hook centering, crane accidents often seriously injure workers, but they rarely kill them.
Types of Crane Accidents
The aforementioned violations are not just theoretical problems. They often contribute directly to serious crane accidents.
Crushed by Load: These incidents account for about a third of the serious injury and fatal construction crane accidents. As the load plummets toward the ground, it picks up speed. So, there is little warning of an impending impact. The consequences for hapless workers on the ground are normally catastrophic.
Falls: Most construction crane falls occur between ground level and ten stories. Nevertheless, a fall from that height is often sufficient to cause a fatal injury, especially if the victim had a pre-existing condition.
Gantry Crane Injuries: Gantry cranes are essentially portable construction cranes. They have fewer functions than standard cranes, so typically, operators do not need licenses to run gantry cranes. As a result, almost all such accidents are serious or fatal.
The OSHA violation background, if any, usually affects the available legal remedy.
A history of citations, especially if they are relevant to the particular construction accident, often means victims are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses, in addition to medical bills, lost wages, and other economic losses.
Prior citations, even if the company paid a fine and/or made some basic safety improvements, indicate that the employer knew about the hazard. That knowledge is often tantamount to recklessness. It’s like telling a child to play in the street because no cars are coming. The risk alone is all that matters.
Other times, employers do everything right, and accidents still happen. In these cases, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy generally provides no-fault benefits that cover medical bills and lost wages.
Therefore, a workers’ compensation claim is not about blaming anyone for the accident. Rather, these claims hold employers responsible for the accidents which occur at their workplaces.
Crane accidents in South Texas normally cause serious or fatal injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Houston, contact Williams Hart today.