What crane construction hazards do you see? #HazardSpotting

| July 17, 2013 | 6 Comments

#HazardSpotting is a community safety initiative that helps raise awareness about dangerous workplace safety violations. Our audience submits pictures, and we write an article with insight from featured safety professionals. In our eighth installment, we’re highlighting the crane hazards in a building construction zone.

Cranes often inspire passersby to nervously look up, but when we took a second look at this New York crane construction site, it was for good reason. We noticed several troubling OSHA violations on the work site. For this #HazardSpotting, we’ve picked apart the safety don’ts (along with some do’s) in the following scenes.

Crane hazards are a grave concern for workers and nearby property.

Crane hazards pose risks for passersby, workers and nearby property.

Hard hats and identification tags

The first thing that stands out in the truck photo is the lack of OSHA-approved hard hats on the operator and the employee on the ground with the crow bar. That sun hat may protect against UV waves, but it’s powerless against falling equipment or debris. Some would argue that drivers are not part of the construction crew, so this one might be an issue for the job site’s superintendent, though our safety expert points out that this company is likely a subcontractor.

From this vantage point, the chain sling doesn’t appear to have any identifiable tags either (1926.251), which would be a problem, but upon closer inspection, they could be marked.

We spotted at least five hazards in a panoramic snapshot of the construction zone. How many do you count?

We spotted at least five hazards in a panoramic snapshot of the construction zone. How many can you count?

Wider view of building construction site

Even more safety hazards become apparent in the bigger picture. First, there are two visible pedestrians walking next to a parked vehicle, and both appear to be within swing radius of the boom. The site appears to be lacking a clearly-defined perimeter with nothing more than a single dirty cone behind the delivery truck to caution passersby, making it even less effective than if it were the vibrant orange it should be (see 1926.200).

The truck is also poorly positioned. OSHA states in 1926.753(c)(1)(i)(K) that you must have “hoisting equipment for level position; The hoisting equipment for level position after each move and setup” (1926.753(c)(1)(i)(L)).  Based on this photo, the truck is not level and has no apparent outriggers or structures to give the base additional support. Ultimately, this unstable base is not the safest set up for operating any type of boom.

Lastly, there are sufficient guardrails and debris netting on all levels, but the erectors at the top are not anchored with any fall arrest system and the iron worker in the white hat is actually standing on top of the block parapet (1926.760(a)(1)). The worker in the middle has no hard hat at all, and I can’t for the life of me make sense of how the boom operator is going to navigate around the light pole.

What could be done better?

Outriggers aside, if the minivan and contractor’s truck were moved, the boom could be leveled and operated in a much safer manner. It seems as though little effort went into creating a stable environment for the boom, and many more hours spent operating it in this way will likely result in the unsafe maneuvering of this beam around the light pole to a crew that seems awfully far away. As is so often the case in construction, time is money and, in this instance, taking the extra effort would lessen the likelihood of injury but take both more money and more time.

The signage on the store front to the far right of the second photo indicates that the image was likely taken in a part of town with a large Asian population. Posting bilingual signage around the construction site to warn those for whom English isn’t the native language is a great idea. Additionally we cannot overlook the need for a better perimeter overall; public protection must be a priority at all times. Thankfully, the site does appear to have good protection via the scaffold, and there are numerous signs indicating the dangerous environment.

Finally, the first rule in any project must be ‘eliminate the hazard.’ Hard hats should be worn at all times and fall protection devices could easily be implemented here. One argument often used by steel erectors is “I can’t tie off if there’s nothing above me!” That might be true at times, but after looking at the position of the iron worker to the far left, we know that a parapet is in place and the risk of a fall from standing on top of the parapet is greater than the risk from standing on the deck behind it. What’s more, a cattle gate or landing zone could have been added before the first beam was set. Plus, once an overhead horizontal beam is in place, as is the case in this photo, a beam strap and self-retracting lanyard (SRL) can be added in less than 30 seconds.

So did we catch everything? Let us know below! The more eyes the better.

More about #HazardSpotting

Think you’ve seen an unsafe work condition? Whether it’s construction, manufacturing, or food safety, we’ll investigate the hazard. Snap a picture and share your story with us by sending an email to the editor at Krissa (at) smartsign.com. We’ll write a post and consult a safety expert. Did we miss anything? Comment below.


Category: #HazardSpotting, Construction, OSHA

About the Author ()

Krissa is a librarian by training and a knowledge manager by trade. She grew up overseas and makes her home in Brooklyn, having matriculated from Sarah Lawrence College (Bachelorette of the Pretentious Arts) and Pratt Institute (Mistress of Information and Library Science). An inveterate research nerd, Krissa loves government documents, controlled vocabularies, and referencing decade-old New Yorker articles in daily conversation. In her spare time she's usually cooking her way through Italian cuisine, snuggling her dog against his will, or watching Mad Men. In the summer months, she loves biking to work (and the smug sense of self-satisfaction that brings).

Comments (6)

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  1. Frank Fox says:

    I don’t see a flag man, a tag line, and the load is not fastened correctly it could slip with the use of chains.
    I don’t see any wheel chocks. The operator of the make shift rig has no hard hat. the equipment looks like it is being misused as a crane, it seems to be more of a pallet lifting device for roofing materials, so that would be misuse of a tool or equipment for what it is designed for. Several hard hats missing. you may want to say he is operating to close to a power source even though not a power line. Would like to see more barrier tape.

    • Mike Miles says:

      Thanks for pointing out these hazards, Frank. It’s interesting you noted how the crane is actually being used. I don’t believe that was identified.

  2. Rigging on the forks which is not allowed and it looks like he intends to work over the front of the truck, does it have a front stabalizer. Is his swing path barracaded. Just think, If the Amnesty gets jammed down our throat you can expect this to be everywhere. This is your typical American sub-contractor and it is business as usual because they dont pay accordingly and use cheap labor.

    • Cathy says:

      I have to agree with you, John. This reeks of frankly irresponsible management. When I see situations like this, I blame the higher ups for not educating and monitoring the worksite. Someone clearly knows better.

    • Bill R. says:

      John, you’re correct about the front stabilizer. Without that it could cause huge damage. Where’s the management by golly. Keep these posts going because they are a good educational tool.

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