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The Dangers of Overhead Cranes

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers discuss the dangers of overhead cranes. Overhead cranes are extremely important for conducting proper lift and transport of building materials, especially in construction. When correctly driven, they can help to make operations easier, and even safer. But when a hazard impacts operation, overhead crane accidents can cause severe injuries and fatalities.

Overhead cranes are defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a crane with a movable bridge, carrying a movable or fixed hoisting mechanism and traveling on an overhead fixed runway structure.

An analysis of overhead crane accidents has yielded three main causes/hazards of these unfortunate incidents.


According to OSHA, 80 percent of all crane upsets and structural failures are caused due to the crane’s operational capacity being exceeded.

There are many causes of overloading; swinging or sudden dropping of the load, hoisting a load beyond capacity, side-loading a boom, dragging a load, and using defective components can all contribute.

OSHA has estimated that a single crane upset occurs every 10,000 hours of use. Almost 80 percent of these can be attributed to human error. Often, the crane operator exceeds the capacity, due to estimating the weight load rather than confirming it.

Using technologies such as load-measuring systems in order to train and plan can help reduce risk.

Though OSHA requires formal training for operators, it is only required for those using equipment with a maximum capacity of 2,000 pounds. The best overall preventative measure for operating a crane is education and job training. 

Materials Falling

Another major hazard is falling materials. Mechanical failure, operator incompetency, two-blocking, visual impairment, and slipping often occur. Movement of materials can crush workers in the middle of the rigging process.

Wearing proper head, foot, hand, and eye protection, performing regular maintenance of hoists, load testing maintenance, daily crane inspections, and lowering the crane to the ground when not in active use can reduce risk.

Electrical Hazards

According to OSHA, nearly 50 percent of overhead crane accidents occur due to the machinery coming into contact with an electrical source while being operated. For example, when any metal part of the crane unintentionally contacts a high-voltage power line.

This directly impacts the crane operator, who is touching the crane when it comes into contact with the power line, and anyone else within a certain vicinity. Almost 200 people are killed annually from this, while almost 600 are seriously injured.

These electrical hazards generally occur because preventative measures have not been taken. These measures include pre-job safety planning, keeping cranes away from unsafe working areas, keeping a safe speed, considering all power lines to be energized, notification of potentially dangerous areas, and training.

Up to 10 feet from a power line is considered to be unsafe. This area must be clearly marked, and ladders, tools, and systems should be confirmed as non-conductive. If the electric company can de-energize and ground power lines or add insulation when people are working near them, even better.

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Assist Those Injured by Overhead Cranes

If you or someone you know has been injured in an overhead crane accident, it is important to consult with the experienced Wilmington workplace injury lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 302-888-1221 today. With years of experience serving Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Delaware County, and Chester County, we can help you to know your rights and get what you deserve.