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NYC Crane Accidents

Cranes are an essential but deadly aspect of the construction and manufacturing industries. These massive tools lift items weighing thousands of tons and can cause catastrophic accidents when something goes wrong. 

In New York City, cranes are often perched on top of high-rises, looming hundreds of stories over workers and civilians below. A piece of falling debris can easily cause a fatal injury from this height, let alone the devastation that a partial or complete crane collapse could bring. 

Recent crane accidents in NYC have highlighted a major concern with crane companies not adhering to safety protocols to reduce accidents: 

  • This past July 2019, a piece of a crane boom broke lose in the East Village when it was carrying a load of construction material to the roof. The piece fell and struck a building before it dangled high above the street. Thankfully, no one was injured. 
  • In April 2019, a worker in Manhattan was killed by a crane malfunction on a SOHO construction site. The man was crushed by the counterweight on the crane that came lose when other workers were erecting the equipment. 

Both of these accidents involved the company United Crane and Rigging, a hoisting, heavy lifting, and rigging company located in Queens. According to CBS New York, the Department of Buildings responded to these accidents by placing a stop-work order on United Crane and Rigging worksites citywide until significant changes are made. The company was also issued $110,000 in fines for putting the lives of workers and the public at risk. 

Cranes are too dangerous not to use correctly. Owners and contractors are equally responsible for securing and operating these pieces of equipment properly to help reduce the number of unnecessary accidents on the job. 

Most Common Crane Accidents 

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) estimates approximately 225,000 cranes are in operation across the country on any given day. All crane operators and workers on sites where cranes are used are at risk for crane-related injuries and fatalities, more than 250,000 individuals nationwide.

There are several types of crane accidents that can put the lives of workers and bystanders at risk. OSHA highlights the following incidents as the most common: 

  • boom or crane contact with live power lines 
  • under the hook lifting device
  • overturned cranes
  • dropped loads
  • boom collapse
  • crushing by counterweight
  • outrigger use
  • falls
  • rigging failures

Booms and cranes coming in contact with energized power lines accounted for nearly 45 percent of all crane accidents, and are the largest single cause of crane-related fatalities according to Northwestern Energy. When cranes come in contact with live power lines, all metal surfaces of the crane become energized and dangerous. These types of accidents put the operator and surrounding workers at serious risk of permanent and fatal electrocution injuries. 

Why Crane Accidents Occur 

In investigating the causes of crane accidents, OSHA identified a number of red flags for why these deadly incidents continue to occur:

  •  Poor Maintenance: Some cranes that lead to serious and fatal accidents were not properly maintained. When cranes are left unsecured, unbalanced, and unattended, catastrophic accidents are bound to occur. 
  • Outdated Policies: Many of OSHA’s crane standards for construction, maritime, and general industry have not been updated since 1971. These policies do not address the advancements in hoisting technology or equipment, and often leave workers unprepared. 
  •  Lack of Training: A large number of crane operators do not have the necessary qualifications for operating cranes safely on the job. Even with Local Law 196 of 2017, requiring construction workers to obtain 30 hours of safety training, several operators continue to work without. 
  • Improper Use: Some crane accidents occur when cranes are not the best equipment to use for a particular job. Cranes lack the ability to make certain movements and can become unbalanced when overloaded, leading them to collapse or tip over. 

How To Keep Worksites Safe 

Construction sites that wish to operate cranes must use caution and extreme measures to help keep their workers safe. Because most crane accidents occur in urban environments, these companies must also consider the danger they are posing to the general public, taking additional safety precautions to prevent accidents. 

The following are OSHA guidelines employers and workers should be following to help reduce crane-related accidents and injuries: 

  • Always inspect cranes directly before use for mechanical issues. 
  • Create a comprehensive inspection list requiring the inspection of cranes on a regular basis. Inspections should look at wiring, cracking, worn-out parts, and other damages that could lead to malfunctions. 
  • Any repairs needed on cranes should be completed before they are operated. 
  • Cranes should be placed on stable and flat ground at least 10-feet from electrical cables. 
  • Ensure the crane does not exceed the capacity it is capable of carrying. 
  • “Signal” persons should be used to assist the operator. These workers must also be trained. 
  • Riggers and crane operators should not be operating any machinery without proper training. 
  • Before operating a crane, an emergency plan in the case of inclement weather should be put in place. 
  • Make sure all materials being moved are secured to prevent falling debris. 

For more information on crane operation and safety, visit the OSHA page on compliance directives for cranes and derricks in construction. 

New York City Accident Attorneys

The majority of crane accidents are 100 percent preventable with the proper training and care. At the law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, we have been fighting for New York City workers and victims of unnecessary construction accidents for over 60 years. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious construction injury, our knowledgeable team of accident attorneys is here to help. Contact us for a free consultation to review your case and your rights.


“Crane Boom Breaks While Carrying Load Up Building In The East Village.” CBS New York.(Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/07/30/east-village-crane-incident/

“Construction Worker Killed in SoHo Crane Accident: Police.” New 4 New York. (Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Construction-Worker-Dies-in-SoHo-Crane-Accident-Police-Varick-Street-508532721.html

“United Crane And Rigging Fined By DOB After 2 NYC Accidents This Year .” CBS New York. (Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/08/12/crane-company-fined-nyc-accidents/

“Crane and Hoist Safety.” OSHA Archive.(Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://www.osha.gov/archive/oshinfo/priorities/crane.html

“Overhead Power Line Safety for Contractors.” NorthWestern Energy.(Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://www.northwesternenergy.com/docs/default-source/documents/safety/overhead_safety_brochure

“Compliance Directive for the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration.(Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-02-01-057