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Construction crane deaths trigger scrutiny

Construction crane accidents have been under scrutiny after two fatal accidents earlier this year. Experts believe that construction negligence stemming from human error is usually responsible for these accidents.

Cranes are being used more frequently in cities where infill and high-rise work are common. Each year, approximately 44 people are killed and 175 are injured in crane accidents in this country.

A tower crane fell in downtown Seattle in April, killing four people and injuring another three. A few weeks ago, one person was killed, and several others suffered injuries after a crane collapsed during a windstorm. While these accidents are still under investigation, one expert blames most accidents on human error. This often includes a lack of knowledge of proper crane operation, inadequate inspections and improper maintenance by the operator or a member of the field crew.

New OSHA regulations took effect in April to improve crane operator's knowledge and training. They must be certified or licensed and receive ongoing training to run new equipment. However, operators who were certified before December are not required to undergo reassessment, and there are concerns that contractors may try to skirt the costs of these new rules.

The new OSHA regulations focus mostly on the crane operator's employer, but the general construction contractor may be held responsible for an accident under the new rules. Best practices, however, are not limited to OSHA regulations. Responsible construction companies should comply with state and local laws and other regulations governing the operation of cranes.

Families of victims of a crane accident or other work-related accident may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. An attorney can help them pursue this right.

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