Texas Leads Nation in Crane Accidents

by Eric Pearson

In early July 2012, two men were killed while dismantling a crane at the University of Texas at Dallas. They join dozens of other victims of crane accidents in Texas, which leads the nation in crane-related fatalities. Between 2003 and 2010, Texas recorded 76 crane deaths. The next three states on the list had 101 combined — Florida with 39 and California and Louisiana both with 31.

Texas also is among the states that lack any licensing or certification program for crane operators. In 2010, after years of research and haggling, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted new rules requiring crane operators to be certified. Those rules replaced outdated 1971 rules that had failed to prevent hundreds of crane-related accidents and deaths nationwide.

Under the new OSHA rules, crane operators must pass a battery of written and equipment-operation tests, meet health requirements and be at least 18 years old. Certification must be granted by an accredited testing organization, or operators can be qualified through an audited employer program. The new rules, however, are not fully effective until 2014.

Until the new rules take effect, crane operators will continue to face a hodge-podge of differing state standards. In New York, for example, where a pair of crane accidents in 2008 killed nine people and brought nationwide attention to the problem, crane operators face tough standards and increased enforcement. California also requires state certification.

Texas, however, remains unregulated. Some blame the lack of regulation or certification for the recent deaths of two men working at the University of Texas at Dallas. Those men — Terry Weaver, 50, of Grand Saline, and Thomas Fairbrother Jr., 58, of Austin — were taking down a crane when it collapsed.

OSHA is currently investigating the accident and taking a hard look at the safety record and practices of the two companies involved in the accident, general contractor Hunt Construction Group Inc., based in Arizona, and Grand Prairie’s Harrison Crane and Hoist. OSHA said records indicate that Harrison Crane has no inspection history, while Hunt Construction Group has been inspected 90 times. Ten of those inspections, an OSHA spokesman confirmed, “resulted in the issuance of citations for 21 safety and health violations.”

If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious crane accident, contact the law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson to receive a free legal consultation. You can reach us by calling our toll-free hotline at 1-877-446-9001, or by completing our free online case evaluation form.