Worker Killed When Crane Boom Collapses

In the wake of the recent oil platform tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil and gas industry hit with another misfortune when a crane boom failed and caused the death of a worker at a construction site on April 19. Investigators are looking into the cause of the collapse after the worker, who was working for Beacon Construction, a subsidiary of Bechtel Corporation, died when a 90-ton rough terrain crane’s boom failed.

The construction site was attached to a 325,000 barrel-per-day oil refinery, and was an expansion project organized under a joint venture of two California-based construction companies. When complete, the expansion project would allow the site to produce roughly 600,000 barrels-per-day, making it the largest refinery in the United States and a top 10 refinery in the world, and is slated for completion in 2012.

Investigators for the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration are taking managing the investigation, as well as local law enforcement officials. Furthermore, the United Steelworkers Union has indicated that the construction site has been cited for four to five minor accidents involving cranes since the project began. In connection to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform off the coast of Louisiana, where 17 workers were injured and 11 went missing, the United Steelworkers Union said that the two incidents are both indications of a problem with process safety in the oil and gas industry. Gary Beevers, the United Steelworkers Union international Vice President, reported that this incident involving the death of the construction site worker is one of four health and safety incidents involving worker deaths or injuries in the past two weeks, within the oil industry alone. Beevers asks “how many more workers have to pay the price for the industry’s lack of safety culture?” and indicated that the industry is long overdue for an overhaul of its safety provisions.

In the wake of two unrelated crane collapses in New York, the Department of Buildings in 2008 highlighted an immediate need to improve tower crane oversight, mandating new training requirements for workers, launched a crane inspection sweep, enhanced inspector training, required crane certification before assembly, and supported OSHA tower crane regulation before a congressional committee, all in an effort to reduce the possibility of worker-related deaths or injuries resulting from crane failures at construction sites. Information regarding crane safety and regulatory notices are available from the Department of Buildings (Crane Regulatory Notices).

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