Common Overhead Crane Safety Risks

crane over city

Cranes continue to be an essential resource in the construction industry. While the latest advancements in technology and information available have preserved the safety of many employees, common overhead crane safety risks can lead to injuries and fatalities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists hundreds of crane-related deaths in their latest Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report. Many of these unfortunate accidents can be prevented if those operating and employing cranes on the job site are made aware of the potential danger cranes possess.

By implementing proper safety practices into every job site, potential risks are minimized and employee safety is improved. In the event of an accident, insurance protection is a critical element in protecting your client’s business. Regardless of the type of job site, accidents are always a possibility when heavy machinery is used. Thankfully, insurance coverage will cover your client against these costly damages.

Let’s highlight some of the most common crane risks and discuss ways that your clients could potentially prevent them on their job sites:


Despite being one of the most readily preventable accidents, OSHA speculates that there is approximately one instance of crane upset caused by overloading within every 10,000 hours of use. The Fabricator reports that many crane operators believe the misconception that overloading isn’t possible due to safety factors built into the machine by the manufacturer.

Unfortunately, this misconception has led to many avoidable accidents. Although some components of crane systems do feature built-in safety factors, the system as a whole may not be outfitted with the same features. Some elements like chain hoists are required to have overload protection, but components like wire rope hoists are not.

Boom Failure

The boom can be defined as a fixed or telescopic arm that moves objects. Though the boom’s length and ability to move in diverse angles increases its utility on the job site, it can also increase the potential for accidents or injury. Attempting to lift weights larger than the boom can handle could cause the machine to tip. If the weight of the load begins to move while being lifted, it may exert a force on the boom and cause it to swing erratically.

Instances of boom collapse are some of the major causes of crane accidents reported by OSHA. In order to prevent these incidents from harming employees, only certified personnel should operate boom crane equipment. Cranes should be loaded responsibly according to manufacturer instructions and those interacting with these cranes on the job site should be aware of the potential reach and how it could impact themselves and their surroundings.

Crane erected with blue sky

Inclement Weather

Changing weather conditions are also a threat to those operating and working with cranes. Rain, snow, ice and wind can become serious hazards for both the crane itself and the environment it interacts with. For instance, wind speed directly impacts the safety of the crane. High winds cause loads to swing, the crane to rotate uncontrollably or cause damage to the components that may result in a crash.

To ensure the best safety precautions are taken, site managers should have a dedicated plan of action in place in the event of inclement weather. This plan should include all relevant information, such as the maximum wind speed the crane can operate in and what actions should be taken when precipitation is present. One way to monitor these conditions is to affix an anemometer to the boom point of the crane. All machinery including cranes should also be assessed after the weather has passed prior to use.

Materials Falling

The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reports states that of the 220 total crane-related deaths occurring between the years 2011-2015, over half of these fatal occurrences involved an employee being struck by machinery or an object. 60 out of the 69 deaths that resulted were from materials that fell from the crane itself.

As perhaps one of the deadliest accidents associated with crane use, it’s vital that those working on a site remain vigilant. OSHA requires that all personnel on a site always wear protective equipment such as hard hats, eye protection, gloves and ANSI-approved protective footwear. Employees should also ensure that all loads are correctly secured and that all materials above eye level are safely stored.

Contact with Power Lines

Nearly 45 percent of major crane accidents involve energized power lines coming in contact with the boom or crane. Crane operators should always be aware of the maximum height of their crane as well as any power lines in the area. A safe working clearance of at least 10-feet should be used when working near power lines. Any downed power lines should be assumed to be live, as even dead lines may be reactivated as power is restored to the area.

Risks Attributed to Rigging Equipment

Rigging equipment may also pose a threat to employees working with cranes if not properly used or maintained. OSHA requires that the assembly and disassembly of rigging operations be conducted by a qualified rigger. All outriggers should be fully extended and hoist lines should not be wrapped around the load under any circumstances. All rigging should also be inspected prior to use and all accessible areas within the radius of the crane’s reach should be barricaded.

Minimize Crane Risk

Though preventable, crane accidents are often a result of misuse, a lack of thorough inspection and maintenance, or simply poor judgment. Uncommon insights concerning liability issues can impact your client’s bottom line if they are not properly insured to cover these unfortunate accidents. An experienced specialty underwriter can analyze these often-overlooked risks and provide a sound assessment that meets the framework of the business.

Ascinsure is ready to be your trusted insurance underwriter. With over 30 years of serving diverse clients across the country, we’re aware of the potential accidents that may put your business at risk. Our crane-specific insurance coverage considers all of these unique risks and provides a comprehensive assessment that works for you. Contact us today to begin integrating this critical coverage into your policy.