Crane accident...

Mark Chisholm

Administrator
Administrator
I had a call yesterday regarding a crane accident that I'm wondering how you guys feel about it.

A young tree co owner brushed out a large pine tree manually and then hired a crane company to pick the remaining stick. It was not very tall at this point (I think 38 feet). The climber estimated the weight to be about 8,000lbs and he hired a 40ton crane to pick it. The radius was close enough that this shouldn't have been an issue.

The crane op ended up disagreeing about the weight and wanted to take it in 2. The climber went up and strapped it with a nylon eye and eye up high and the crane op didn't like how it was rubbing on some of the cuts and was worried it would get damaged during the lift. He said to move it lower a couple of times and then said ok. He then told the climber where to cut it. When it was cut the piece flipped quickly and struck the climber and killed him.

Question for you guys is who is legally at fault? Is there documentation anywhere that clearly specifies your answer?

It's a hard story to read I know, but we need to discuss these incidents if we are to improve our workplace safety numbers.
 

VenasNursery

Well-Known Member
Location
Michigan
I had a call yesterday regarding a crane accident that I'm wondering how you guys feel about it.

A young tree co owner brushed out a large pine tree manually and then hired a crane company to pick the remaining stick. It was not very tall at this point (I think 38 feet). The climber estimated the weight to be about 8,000lbs and he hired a 40ton crane to pick it. The radius was close enough that this shouldn't have been an issue.

The crane op ended up disagreeing about the weight and wanted to take it in 2. The climber went up and strapped it with a nylon eye and eye up high and the crane op didn't like how it was rubbing on some of the cuts and was worried it would get damaged during the lift. He said to move it lower a couple of times and then said ok. He then told the climber where to cut it. When it was cut the piece flipped quickly and struck the climber and killed him.

Question for you guys is who is legally at fault? Is there documentation anywhere that clearly specifies your answer?

It's a hard story to read I know, but we need to discuss these incidents if we are to improve our workplace safety numbers.
Absolutely terrible
 

Luzl78

Active Member
Climber has the last say. His life on the line. Was the whole incident videotaped? How do you know about the conversation? If it was videotape then the insurance lawyers will fight over whether the crane guy is at fault.
 

Jehinten

Well-Known Member
Location
Evansville
I'll weigh in with little crane experience and no official documentation to back me up. I think both are at fault, but if the crane OP is quarterbacking the job then more of the responsibility falls on him. Without knowing the crane OP's crane and tree experience he should have been able to see the center of gravity on a straight stick.

With that being said, I'm certain he is beating himself up over the descions that he made and I can't imagine being in his shoes or the family off the climber.
 

ATH

Well-Known Member
Location
Ohio
I've never run with a crane and never went to law school...

Should it have been visible to the climber that the tipping point was off? I assume the plan was that the picked piece would stay vertical? Looking straight up could have thrown off the perception of how low the strap was/how high the cut was.

Does the crane operator have experience with trees? You'd think it obvious that they were below the center of gravity...but if he's never dealt with trees before???

Was there a 3rd person watching and offering feedback (crew boss or owner)? Would that be standard? Could the climber have gone to them to ask "does that look OK to you?"

As crappy as the situation is, maybe no one person was at fault. Certainly sounds like a preventable situation which means bad decisions were made. But if my bad decision is only deadly when complicated by you bad decision...whose bad decision "caused" the fatality? I know that is of no comfort to a company owner or mourning family (or lawyers)...
 

Jonny

Well-Known Member
Location
Buffalo
If it all went down just how you say, ultimately the climber should not have made that cut. Law and liability and the like aren’t my forte, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the crane company was held accountable to some degree.

This shit is heartbreaking. Deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
 

Keeth

Active Member
Location
NC
Do you think OSHA will make the determination of who is legally responsible? They both “should” have known better as ANSI makes reference to green log chart knowledge for the climber while the crane operator’s certification requires him to know how to minimize the movement of what he is rigging.

I would think the fault will be placed on the crane operator, even with a signed “hold harmless” contract.

Regardless, this is a heart breaking story and I will be praying for all parties involved.
 

Luzl78

Active Member
We all know how a log is to be rigged. I can’t believe the climber listened to the crane operator. He is in the tree. He has to see with his own eyes how the straps are situated. He’s making the cut thinking, will this flip? It should of been very obvious that the straps were set below the flip point, especially to the crane guy.
 

JT31

New Member
Location
Peoria
I looked quickly for some ruling on who has final say but didn't find anything that was clear. In cases that I have seen in New York City the operator is ultimately responsible for the crane and the load attached. I always tell operators if your not comfortable with something you have final say on the lift. There are specific and proper ways to make your cuts when working with a crane to avoid the tree free swinging after the cut (I am not en expert at the cuts just had the privileged of being around a few that are). This is another reason why it isn't a bad idea to be using 2 strap to stop a possible swing.
 

ATH

Well-Known Member
Location
Ohio
..... The climber estimated the weight to be about 8,000lbs and he hired a 40ton crane to pick it. The radius was close enough that this shouldn't have been an issue.

The crane op ended up disagreeing about the weight and wanted to take it in 2....
Do you know rough diameter and species of the log? Was the climber wrong on the weight? Even if he was off by 100%, was it still within range of what the crane could have picked from its location?

Thinking about it more, I get that the operator is ultimately responsible for deciding if they are going to take the pick...but if the climber was right on initial estimate, it seems like a lot goes back in the operator for second guessing information that was correct.

Again, I've never been on a crane crew, just thinking out loud about what any jobsite can look like. I've given every helper permission to second guess me on safety issues. That doesn't mean we are going with they say...but that we will reevaluate before making final decision.
 

colb

Well-Known Member
Location
Florida
The fact that they were picking the simplest possible shape in both arboriculture and crane industries likely bears on this being a case that is purely about the human decisions.

The only factor germane to the tree is the coefficient of friction for the pine bark with regards to the sling and the cambium. Our industry could benefit from a study on that since it is likely different for different species and different states (dead, alive, summer, winter, temperature, etc.). A predictive generalized linear model can be formed using an AIC, evidence ratio approach of model selection or model averaging. I know that sounds complicated, but the output is not - you get results that look like "the season predicts friction fifty times better than the temperature." In this case, it was not an actual issue, but the crane op and climber had different perceptions of whether it was an issue, to what extent it was an issue, and perhaps even differences of by what path it was an issue. They lacked information and it caused the crane op to ask for a lower rigging placement.

As far as which person is at fault, my personal feeling on the matter is that both are at fault. This was a simple case. Both could and should have decided to back off. A green log weight chart and the crane load chart should have solved the issue of what length could be picked, and should both have been on site, readily available. I know I am cherry picking from the couch, but the case is simple enough that one may be able to do that...

I'm sorry for this tree professional and his family.
 

Gray squirrel

Member
Location
napanoch ny
I think both of them are at fault they had little experience and shouldn't have been doing that type of work with that lack of experience ,if crane operator was tree experienced that shouldn't happen
 

Steve Connally

Well-Known Member
So I post this from both the climber and the operator shoes. As a climber I think the crane op is ultimately responsible for whats on his hook. He gives me a number I do my best to rig it proper. He operates I rig. If we don't agree and can't come to a compromise on the rigging then the operation stops. I will not do what I know is unsafe. If its just over weight but not my rigging then he wins. If he doesn't want to lift 2k then we'll do 1k if thats what he wants. I'll likely not use him again or call his boss but he has final say on weight. I have the say on rigging. If we can't agree then it stops. Luckily I have never had an operator question what I was doing.

As a crane operator with many years of climbing experience...........I rarely work with climbers with more experience than me so there is always some coaching going on. Not blind orders but a discussion and an agreed on plan. Ultimately if they aren't going to do it safely as I suggested then it's either my way or the highway. It's kinda an unique situation with the operator as a veteran climber. My job is to make each job a learning environment and an opportunity for mentorship. Several of the companies I work for have climbers who nail it every time I work with them. We discuss capacity and I let them do their thing unless I see a teaching moment or a tip to make it easier.

I have an article in the next TCIA mag about an incident I had recently with a fairly green climber.

This is a wholly shit accident. I feel awful for both involved but obviously the guy who was killed. That operator was in the wrong for sure. Had no clue what was going on. He should pulled the plug on the job. The climber is also at fault for letting himself get pushed into something so obviously unsafe, unless, he was so green he blindly following the operators advice.

No win situation. Absolutely awful. So sad.
 

Mark Chisholm

Administrator
Administrator
Do you know rough diameter and species of the log? Was the climber wrong on the weight? Even if he was off by 100%, was it still within range of what the crane could have picked from its location?

Thinking about it more, I get that the operator is ultimately responsible for deciding if they are going to take the pick...but if the climber was right on initial estimate, it seems like a lot goes back in the operator for second guessing information that was correct.

Again, I've never been on a crane crew, just thinking out loud about what any jobsite can look like. I've given every helper permission to second guess me on safety issues. That doesn't mean we are going with they say...but that we will reevaluate before making final decision.
I was told that a green light chart says that it was about 7800 lbs
 
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