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High levels of construction work mean risks from mobile cranes

Construction is at an all-time high in the U.S. right now, and simple exposure means that injuries and financial losses will follow. This week, we're talking about the risks associated with mobile cranes.

Did you know that the riskiest time for losses around mobile cranes is when they're entering and existing job sites? It's true, according to a spokesperson for ProSight Specialty Insurance. Tower cranes and other large cranes have to be assembled and trucked in, then dismantled and trucked out, but mobile cranes are driven onto and off of job sites fully assembled.

These cranes typically have 12 to 16 wheels and are heavy. They're so heavy that they can take twice as long to stop as a fully-loaded big rig. That puts them at substantial risk for both over-the-road and on-site driving accidents.

Upcoming change in liability rule for crane accidents

Workers are injured or killed by cranes all too often. The incidents do include workers being struck or run over by cranes, and they can also involve cranes or crane workers coming into contact with electrical wires or other hazards. There are many other possibilities, however. For example, a construction worker could become injured if a crane begins to sink into soft ground near a trench the worker is excavating. A crane could drop its load or strike a building and send debris plummeting to the ground where people are working.

In the past, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration typically assigned 100 percent of the liability to the crane operator. This was thought unfair because there are a lot of decision-makers on a construction site who can affect whether a crane is involved in an accident. For example, the general contractor might be the person who decides where the crane will be placed. If that decision resulted in a crane sinking, it could be partially the general contractor's responsibility.

Although crane operators will continue to be responsible for any harm they cause, OSHA is expected to release new regulations this fall that will change that liability rule. Once the new regulations are released, which is expected in November, crane operators will share responsibility with other entities that contribute to accidents. Not only does the crane industry perceive this to be fairer, but it also provides potential plaintiffs with another entity to hold responsible for any injuries.

The new guidelines are specific to the crane industry and will also address such issues as setting up cranes and directing their use, as well as operator certification.

If you've been injured by a crane, you should know that construction workers are often eligible for a third-party personal injury claim in addition to workers' compensation benefits.

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