Construction accidents in Massachusetts and elsewhere are, unfortunately, all too common. They are all the more tragic because so many of them are preventable. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited a marine construction company for willful and serious workplace safety violations. It faces $165,200 in proposed fines after OSHA’s inspection.
The accident that prompted the citation was a crane collapse in Connecticut. The marine contractor was hired on the job to replace pilings at the marina that had been damaged by a storm. While the company installed pilings, an 80-foot boom fell. It bounced off a sailboat and crashed onto a yacht.
In investigating, OSHA discovered that the crane didn’t have certain safety devices: boom stops and a boom hoist-limiting device. These devices could have stopped the boom from falling back. The crane should have been inspected by somebody competent to see these hazards, but wasn’t.
OSHA cited the contractor for a willful violation — one committed with intentional disregard for the law’s requirements or indifference to worker safety. A representative specified that the crane shouldn’t have been operating if it wasn’t inspected and its defects corrected.
OSHA also found other failures like failing to inspect the crane, barge, wire lifting reports and ensuring that the crane could actually lift the load it needed to lift. In this case, the cabling system was not inspected to make sure it was safe and control lines weren’t erected to mark where the crane could swing or crush a worker.
Fortunately, in this case, nobody was hurt. However, the kinds of injuries that can occur as a result of an employer’s failure to inspect its equipment are serious. OSHA reported that from 1991-2002, cranes were the cause of 8% of fatalities on construction sites. The potential for traumatic brain injury, paralysis or even death are obvious.
Cranes cause accidents like the one described above not only by falling. They can also lead to accidents if they contact a power line, get overturned, or experience a mechanical failure. There are many routine ways in which working with cranes can lead to jobsite injuries, not just for the crane operator, but other workers on the site such as riggers or carpenters.
If your job involves work with cranes, your employer must use safety measures to help protect employees. Part of this is safety planning — making sure that there are safety policies and procedures are in place. The procedures should include looking at the site with an eye for ways in which a crane accident could happen. For example, the site needs to be prepared well. There needs to be enough room to assemble and disassemble the crane. The power lines need to be looked at to see if they present a potential threat.
In addition to making sure the site is safe, employers should establish a safety plan specifically for the crane. The crane must be able to bear the load and the crane must be inspected by somebody competent and knowledgeable about applicable standards. All personnel including the crane operator and ancillary workers should have adequate training to do their jobs to avoid accidents and fatalities.
If you have been seriously injured on the job, an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney may be able to help you navigate complex workers’ compensation laws. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.