One of the greatest tools available to build our iconic skyline has been the crane. These machines manage to carry massive loads to very precise locations at all heights in New York.
However, when a crane fails or an operator makes a mistake the results can be deadly. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, over 200 people died due to incidents involving cranes nationwide.
An Elevated Risk
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks accidents that impact workers across the nation and has dedicated a page to current data on crane-related accidents. During the window of 2011-2015, BLS counted 220 fatalities, 217 of which were men. This works out to an average of 44 deaths per year, and the yearly totals did not deviate far from that number. The low point was 2011, with 37 deaths; every other year in that window was over 40, topping at 48 in 2014.
Of those 220 fatalities, 42 percent occurred within the private construction industry, notably specialty trade contractors and civil engineering construction, while a further 24 percent came from the manufacturing industry. A quarter of all fatal crane injuries occurred at construction sites, not counting road construction, and 22 percent of all fatalities were the crane operators themselves.
Fall in Harlem
The concern about crane safety was brought home to New York just this June when a mini crane crashed to the ground in East Harlem. The New York Post reported on the incident in which one man fell with the crane and two more were injured on the ground. While installing a curtain wall, the crane apparently lost control and fell three or four stories along with the panel it was carrying and the first victim, who was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and later stabilized. Another man suffered serious, but not critical, injuries, and a third was struck by debris and sustained minor injuries.
These three men and others on the site are thankfully still alive after their incident. But it is a stark reminder of the dangers faced by workers on our construction sites, and the BLS statistics warn that these stories do not always end in survivable injuries. Employers who use cranes must take every precaution to ensure the machines are working properly and that operators are carrying out their duties safely.