Diving letter:

  • A collision with two cranes at a project site in Austin, Texas known as Mueller Redevelopment underscores the need for contractors to develop and follow site safety plans detailing the positioning of each crane during construction. In the crane incident on September 16, 22 people were injured. 16 were taken to hospitals in the area.
  • Scott Orr, owner of Paradise Crane Consultants, told KXAN in Austin that for any multi-crane project, the general contractor, or “responsible contractor”, typically works according to plans that identify the location of each crane as the project progresses. If the work required moving a crane to another location, all contractors would come up with a new plan.
  • A representative from Austin’s real estate division told KXAN that the city requires developers to license a crane to operate over public property and that the developer must have adequate insurance to cover possible damage from the crane. According to the official, the Mueller remediation project does not have a crane license and it is not known if the project had a safety plan for the site where the crane locations were determined.

Dive Insight:

City officials also told KXAN that the Austin area where the Mueller project is located has more green space and that the cranes may not have had to swing over public property.

It is not known if the crane operators involved in the Austin accident were certified.

In November 2018, OSHA issued a final regulation according to which crane operators must be certified either by type and capacity or only by type. The agency rule also stipulated that those who received certification undergo ongoing crane operation training.

OSHA received industry recommendations regarding the new rule and then changed the deadlines. According to the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), these included:

  • Crane operators can only be certified by type and must be certified by an accredited organization such as the NCCCO.
  • Employers have to evaluate their crane operators according to defined criteria and processes.
  • Employers must keep the crane operator certification documentation up to date.
  • The certification aims to reduce the “human error” element of crane operation.

Since the rule came into force, there have been some serious crane accidents due to errors by the crew. For example, in April 2019, a tower crane fell from a Google office project in downtown Seattle, killing two workers and two people in cars underneath. During an investigation, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry found that the crews dismantling the cranes were not following the manufacturer’s instructions and removing almost all of the tower’s pins and sleeves at once, weakening the crane structure and allowing for gusts susceptible to it was the wind that knocked it over.