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Contractor Cited in UT Crane Deaths

Friday, November 30, 2012

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A crane contractor is facing multiple serious federal safety citations and $29,400 in fines for a tower crane collapse that took the lives of two workers at the University of Texas in July.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration held Harrison Hoist Inc. responsible for the deaths of employees Terry Weaver, 50, of Grand Saline, TX, and Tom Fairbrother Jr., 58.

Terry Weaver Tom Fairbrother Jr.

Longtime friends Terry Weaver (left) and Tom Fairbrother Jr. loved working at great heights, their families said. The men fell 150 feet to their deaths in July.

Longtime co-workers and friends, the men were dismantling the top portion of the 150-foot-tall crane at UT's Dallas Richardson campus when the equipment snapped in a gust of wind, causing them to fall to their deaths.

OSHA cited Harrison Hoist (also known as Harrison Crane & Hoist), of Telford, PA, with six serious citations in the accident.

The company, which has no other record with OSHA, declined to comment Thursday (Nov. 29).

Weather, Training Cited

Harrison Hoist was the crane subcontractor for general contractor Hunt Construction Group at the site, where a new 155,000-square-foot Arts and Technology Building was under construction.

Harrison’s crews were moving two cranes off the site on that Saturday when the accident occurred. Two days earlier, university and construction officials had celebrated the $60 million project's midpoint in a "topping out" ceremony.

Broken tower crane - UTD

The men were dismantling the top of the tower crane when it snapped. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 40 mph in the Dallas area at the time.

Hunt Construction, of Scottsdale, AZ, was never implicated in the accident.

The OSHA citations accuse Harrison Hoist of failing to:

  • Address hazards associated with the effects of wind speed and weather on the equipment;
  • Ensure that procedures for disassembling the tower crane prevented the collapse of any part of the equipment;
  • Adequately support and stabilize all parts of the equipment;
  • Ensure that disassembly procedures positioned workers to minimize their exposure to unintended movement or collapse;
  • Ensure that disassembly procedures were developed by a qualified person; and
  • Train each competent person and each qualified person regarding the requirements of 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926 Subpart CC "Cranes and Derricks in Construction."

A serious violation reflects a “substantial probability” of death or serious physical injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Deadly Winds

Thunderstorms in the Dallas area brought wind gusts of up to 40 mph around the time of the accident, the National Weather Service said.

Chief Alan Palomba of the Richardson Fire Department told the New York Times immediately after the accident that a sudden wind gust was the likely culprit.

The accident bore similarities to the fatal toppling of an aerial lift at the University of Notre Dame that killed a student operator in October 2010.

Declan Sullivan

Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan died while working from a mobile lift that blew over in October 2010.

In that case, Indiana OSHA found that the university had “knowingly” allowed  the student, Declan Sullivan, to operate a mobile lift in winds of up to 60 mph, when the manufacturer specified that the equipment should not be used in wind exceeding 25 mph. On appeal, the "knowing" citation was reduced to "serious."

In the UT case, OSHA Area Office director Stephen Boyd said: "It is imperative for employers to have procedures in place, train workers and otherwise adhere to safe work practices regarding crane use in order to protect workers who disassemble cranes.”

More information on crane safety is available on OSHA's website.

Harrison Hoist has 15 days to contest the citations and fine.


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Commercial contractors; Cranes; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA

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