With the recent building boom in cities like Orlando, New York, and San Diego, the demand for reliable crane operators and equipment is on the rise. This shift is enticing crane operators who left the business in 2008, when the recession forced them into other lines of work, to reenter the business. Now, nearly 8 years removed from the industry, operators are both rusty and lacking education and awareness of current crane operation equipment and safety requirements. Coupled with the inherent perils of crane operation, general contractors, crane rental companies, and operators alike are advised to be attentive to adhering to crane operation best practices.
Daily routine maintenance, operator certification, equipment specifications, and a comprehensive insurance plan are all areas that warrant special attention for those involved in the crane business. By taking careful steps to ensure that their equipment, staff, and surroundings are safe and up to speed, contractors can better protect themselves and their business.
As evidenced by the September 2015 crane tipping in Manhattan, the need for safety courses to avoid accidental incidents is increasingly crucial. There were 10 reported injuries and the outcome could have been much worse. It’s imperative that operators regularly educate themselves on any new developments in safety, especially given the lack of long-tenured, certified crane operators. But education isn’t just the responsibility of the crane operators. The safety, security, and even lives of workers and civilians also hinges on the accountability and training of crane owners and supervisors.
Take the 2001 Florida Turnpike crane accident, when a crane cable snapped and sent a 78-ton beam crashing down, killing two workers. The company’s certification and training protocols were investigated. While the findings pointed to inadequate education procedures for the operators, the construction company was also found to be at fault. The lesson here? Safety is everyone’s responsibility—crane operators, supervisors, and owners must be diligent about proper education and certification procedures.
To help with education, OSHA is in the midst of drafting best practices for crane operators and, upon publication (anticipated in October 2016), operators will be required to know and adhere to these guidelines.
In addition to education, there are various other safeguards that should be in place to ensure businesses have a complete picture of their operators. Background checks, routine Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) checks, and Drug Free Workplace programs that include pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing are essential to preventive measures.
Following two tragic NYC crane collapses in 2008 that left nine people dead, big city construction was under heavy scrutiny. In an industry where there is no room for oversight in equipment maintenance, questions were raised regarding potential shortcuts taken by the construction and crane companies.
Standard cranes need to be certified yearly and cranes older than 15 years must be certified twice a year. Furthermore, team members must conduct daily routine maintenance to ensure that everything from cables to outrigger mats meet industry requirements. It takes an experienced team and several pairs of eyes to guarantee a crane project is ready for operation. Given the dangers associated with this line of work, “triple checks,” even “quadruple checks,” should be the norm. When it comes to maintenance, one can never be too prepared.
In 1999, Big Blue Crane was the biggest crane in the world being used to develop Miller Park, home to the Milwaukee Brewers. Given the massive size of the crane, the boom could only be operated up to a wind capacity of 20 mph. On July 14, 1999, the operator refused to operate the crane when winds exceeded that speed. Management at the crane company overruled the operator and operated the crane despite the concern. Sadly, this lack of attention to detail and underestimation of wind speed led to the crane’s collapse and the death of three construction workers. Investigations revealed that the effects of the wind had been calculated, but the weight of the load being lifted was not accounted for.
Not knowing the specifications of a crane can result in tragic consequences. It’s vital for contractors to stay up-to-date on the consensus standard for each individual crane they operate.
Risk goes hand-in-hand with the construction industry. Regardless of all the safety measures that could be taken, there is always a liability present; therefore, it’s crucial for contractors to be insured by a comprehensive, gap-free coverage plan.
One gap to be wary of is Loss of Use coverage, which isn’t commonly found in insurance policies. The following example illustrates the point. A contractor is utilizing a crane to install an HVAC unit in a building. If the HVAC unit crashes to the ground, it could result in the shutdown of the building. In regions with extreme temperatures, by law, building employees would be sent home. The crane company or contractor would be liable for the loss of use of the building for the shutdown. Often, contractors are contractually obligated to provide Loss of Use coverage, and if not properly insured, these expenses could be devastating.
There are insurance providers that offer their customers the same general, blanket coverage plan, but the reality is that every contractor is unique and deserves a unique coverage plan. In addition to providing specialized solutions with an emphasis on value, providers like ProSight Specialty Insurance help customers by understanding their business needs and bringing additional value to the table. Aside from offering Loss of Use coverage, a prime example of this is ProSight’s partnership with specialized organizations to provide customers with access to discounted rates on background checks and drug testing—helping contractors ensure that their operators are qualified.
As the construction industry continues to evolve and innovate, crane operation is likely to follow suit, making it more important than ever to remain vigilant in assessing and protecting against certain risk exposures. From following proper protocol, certification, and maintenance procedures to establishing comprehensive insurance coverage, plenty can be done to ensure the safety and security of both workers and those around them. ■
About The Author: Jake Morin joined ProSight Specialty Insurance in January 2013 and is a program executive for the company’s Trade Contractors and Building Services Division. Jake is responsible for several programs including: Specialty Trade Contractors, Construction Managers, Solar Contractors, Pest Control, Fire Suppression, as well as Crane and Scaffold. He is also involved in new program development for ProSight.
Modern Contractor Solutions – February 2016
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