Texas likes to be known for its superlatives: “Everything is bigger in Texas” as the saying goes. Not everything that is bigger in Texas is quite so praiseworthy, though. The Lone Star State leads the country in deaths from crane accidents and there is speculation that the penalties for violations by crane operators and construction companies are just too weak to deter poor maintenance and inadequate supervision.
Most crane injuries and fatalities happen to workers on construction sites, but now and again a member of the public is affected. That’s just what happened last week in Dallas, when strong winds toppled a crane, killing a woman in her own apartment, injuring others and destroying homes. Maybe the fact that this was no-one directly involved with the operation of the crane who was affected it might just lead to tightening up on lax enforcement.
In the Dallas accident, there is no argument that exceptionally strong winds directly caused the collapse of the crane, which fell with such force that it crushed an apartment block in its path. The fatality was a 29-year-old woman, Kiersten Smith. However, the blame for the accident and its effects cannot be solely aimed at the weather that day in Dallas. Texas, like many places in the U.S., is used to occasional very strong winds. Cranes are supposed to be designed to withstand such winds. One ex-federal crane accident investigator mentioned after the Dallas crane collapse that cranes are built to withstand 140 mph winds. The highest recorded gust at Dallas airport the day the crane collapsed was 70 mph. Even allowing for higher gusts in the vicinity of the crane, this was still only half the designed safety limit.
The ex crane investigator said that there are precautions that can be taken when a crane operator knows that bad weather is imminent. The main precaution is to tie down or weigh down the boom of the crane so that it doesn’t topple backward, which is what happened in Dallas. The weather forecast issued well before the weekend when the thunderstorm blew through was quite clear about the possibility of strong winds, but reportedly the crane was unattended all weekend.
The crane belonged to Bigge Crane & Rigging Co. Representatives from the company have issued their “thoughts and prayers” to those affected and have agreed to fully cooperate with investigators, but the question is whether anything will actually change.
North Texas, in particular, seems to lead the country in crane accident fatalities, although in the last five years news about serious crane accidents has been reported in many parts of the country, not just in Texas. Not all crane accidents are due to strong winds, either. There are different reasons for these accidents. A crane accident in Seattle in April this year killed two people who were working on it and injured two more. The crane reportedly collapsed as the crane crew was attempting to dismantle it. Another crane accident in New York recently took place in the morning rush hour. The crane actually sliced through an apartment building, like the Dallas crane accident, killing one person.
Lack of Enforcement Could Be a Reason for Crane Operator Negligence
Because there is no apparent common thread emerging in these crane accidents, some attorneys representing injured accident victims have come to the conclusion that the rapid expansion of the construction industry is leading to a lack of effective enforcement and lax control over crane maintenance. In 2017 alone, there were 77 inspections made by OSHA of crane maintenance on Texas worksites. 71% of 65 violations were reported to be serious, according to federal officials. Many of these violations were deliberate or repeated after previous inspections. Fines for crane fatalities have been pegged at only $10,000 per fatality where investigations found that the crane operator was at fault.
If you, or a loved one, is injured as a result of a crane accident in Texas, you will need a resourceful and determined accident attorney to help you pursue rightful compensation. Contact the Injury Lawyer San Antonio at 956-631-3535.