Cranes And Power Lines Make For A Hazardous Combination

Many companies use cranes, especially in the manufacturing and construction industries where materials must be lifted and transported. Proper installation and use mean easier, safer operations, but there are unfortunately serious fatalities involving overhead cranes that happen every year. Preventing these disasters means that workers have to identify specific hazards that might present themselves in such operations. Workers must also follow all prescribed safety procedures to avoid injuries and fatalities.

A number of hazards can come about crane use generally. A multitude of accidents wind up involving tower cranes, mobile cranes, and other large lift systems. However, there are hazards present with all cranes and crane operation. OSHA specifically defines overhead cranes as any that are on a movable bridge and able carry a fixed hoisting mechanism. They can also be movable hoisting mechanisms that might travel on a fixed overhead runway structure.

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) of Washington state recently assessed a substantial fine against Compass General Contractor of Kirkland for workplace safety matters. The matter revolves around the operation of a crane closely to high-voltage power lines when proper safety precautions weren’t heeded to. Workers get hurt and even killed every year when a crane makes contact with power lines. This is a serious workplace safety issue with numerous and specific requirements workers and companies need to follow.

The L&I citations against Compass General Construction included a general violation, a serious violation, and a pair of willful violations. The total fines mean the company must now pay $96,000 total.

The violations both got discovered last May when a Department of Labor and Industries safety inspector visited the jobsite. There, safety requirements regarding crane operation were discussed personally with the site superintendent. A crane was on-site at the time of the visit, but it wasn’t operating near any of the present power lines.

A few days later, Seattle City Light sent a referral to the Department of Labor and Industries about a crane operating too close to a power line, and that none of the prescribed safety precautions were present. This caused the Department of Labor and Industries to subsequently return to said site, where they confirmed the referred crane was indeed operating closely to power lines free of a warning line. There was also not any caution tape or highly visible flagging that also can be used to keep a crane a minimum safe distance away, nor was there a dedicated spotter that might alert a crane operator who was getting too close.

Compass thusly got cited for a willful violation of not appointing a specific lift director who would have overseen the crane lifts as well as the rigging crew. Compass also got cited another willful violation accusing the company of not meeting power-line safety requirements, which would have included a dedicated spotter on-site and also having raised a warning line a minimum safe distance from the nearby power lines. Each willful violation brings about a $48,000 penalty.

Both violations are considered to be willful. This is because the Department of Labor and Industry compliance officer specifically discussed requirements three days prior with the site superintendent.

The Known Dangers Of Power Lines And Cranes

Two workers suffered serious injuries, almost to the point of death, last September. They were working close by the same power line in West Seattle when a rather high-voltage jolt of some electric power traversed the crane’s hoist line to the below men.

The hazards of cranes being close to overhead power lines are not new. Between 1999 to 2012, Washington state suffered nine fatalities from a crane contacting a power line. This included 2010’s double fatality. The Department of Labor and Industries issued a 2012 alert warning companies of this potentially fatal hazard after it got reports of six distinct power line and crane contact events happening in the previous six months.

Compass Joins The Severe Violators List

Aside from a pair of willful violations following the most recent situation, Compass also got a general violation citation. This was for failing to properly document that their rigging supervisor had actually gone through the required tests which would demonstrate his qualifications.

Given the willful violations, Compass now has joined the list of severe violators and is going to be subjected to follow-up inspections in the future that will establish whether or not these conditions remain in place. Compass is appealing the decision.

Any penalty money that’s paid in conjunction with citations such as these gets placed into a workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund. That fund helps workers and also the families of workers who died doing their job. That’s why it’s critical to hire a construction injury lawyer who can stand up for the rights of any workers injured or the families who suffered a fatality because of such incidents.

A Washington construction company is looking at fines of nearly a hundred grand assessed by state regulators for alleged violations of workplace safety. The matter at hand revolved around cranes operating closely to high-voltage power lines without the requisite safety precautions being heeded.

The Department of Labor and Industries has cited Compass General Construction for a general violation and a pair of willful violations. The violations were discovered last May only days after a department safety inspector had visited the job site to discuss safety requirements surrounding crane operation with the superintendent of the site.

There was a crane present at the time on the site, but it wasn’t close to any power lines. On the other hand, Seattle City Light did alert the department that this crane did operate close to a power line but without needed safety requirements. Per the statement, this happened only days following the inspection. An agency inspector returned to the particular site in question and was able to confirm that the crane was indeed operating in close proximity to the power line, and without a caution-tape or high-visibility-flagging warning system to make sure the crane maintained a safe distance. There was also not a dedicated spotter present who could alert a crane operator getting too close.

Compass got cited for willful violation in failing to appoint a specific lift director that would have overseen both the rigging crew and crane lifts. An additional willful violation was cited for not ensuring that a dedicated spotter and elevated warning line were present to see to power-line safety requirements, including the safe distance necessary. Each of these violations brings a possible penalty of $48,00 a piece.

Both of the violations are thought to be willful, considering the fact that the department compliance officers specifically talked about the actual requirements in a conversation with the site’s superintendent only three days prior, per the statement.

Compass has also been cited for a rather general violation, given its failure to document that the individual rigging supervisory actually passed the required tests that prove his qualifications.

Given the seemingly willful violations, this company is now included on the list of severe violators. As such, they’ll be subject to additional follow-up inspections that will determine if such conditions are still present, according to the text of the released statement.

Per the department, Compass is appealing their assumed violations. However, a spokesperson representing the company wasn’t available immediately for questions or comments.

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