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NYC Crane Accidents

Crane hook with workers in the background
Hook of a mobile lifting crane on a construction site, capable of lifting 25 tons of load with workers in the background. Heavy duty machinery for heavy construction industry.

Cranes are an essential but deadly necessity of the construction and manufacturing industries. These monstrous tools lift items weighing thousands of tons and can cause catastrophic accidents when something goes wrong.

In New York City, cranes are often perched on top of high-rises, looming hundreds of stories over workers and civilians below. A piece of falling debris can easily cause a fatal injury from this height, let alone the widespread devastation that a partial or complete crane collapse can cause.

Recent crane accidents in NYC have highlighted a major concern with crane companies not adhering to safety protocols to reduce accidents:

  • On February 11, emergency crews responded to a partial crane collapse in Brooklyn, when the arm of a crane perched 31-stories high became detached and was left dangling from the side of the building. Authorities reported that maintenance workers were repairing the tower crane at the time of the accident when the boom unexpectedly came loose from the structure.
  • In October 2020, a crane attached to the top of an 85-story building in Midtown Manhattan spun out of control in remnant winds of Hurricane Zeta. The boom of the crane (left untethered) knocked large pieces of metal and glass debris from the building with every spin. Officials reported finding debris up to a block away from the site and falling glass and metal incidents were reported weeks following the accident.
  • Within 24 hours of the out of control crane spinning incident in Midtown Manhattan, a second crane accident was reported on the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens. An unmanned floating crane on a barge made contact with the bridge between Floyd Bennet Field and the Rockaways, causing traffic to halt both ways.

It is astonishing that none of these crane accidents resulted in injuries, but many New Yorkers reported feeling terrified, even traumatized, as they ran for cover or remained trapped in their vehicles witnessing these scenes unfold. Cranes are too dangerous to operate recklessly or to be left unsecured. Owners and contractors have a responsibility to ensure the safe operation of these massive machines. This responsibility includes frequent inspections, trainings, maintenance, and supervision to help reduce the number of unnecessary accidents.

Most Common Crane Accidents

  • Falls from cranes
  • Faulty rigging
  • Worker crushed by the crane’s counterweight
  • Collapsed crane booms
  • Dropped loads from cranes
  • Cranes overturning
  • Injuries caused by under-the-hook lifting devices
  • Cranes coming into contact with surrounding energized power lines

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) estimates approximately 225,000 cranes are in operation across the country on any given day. All crane operators and workers on sites where cranes are used are at risk for crane-related injuries and fatalities, more than 250,000 individuals nationwide.

Several types of crane accidents can put the lives of workers and bystanders at risk.Booms and cranes coming in contact with energized power lines accounted for nearly 45 percent of all crane accidents and are the largest single cause of crane-related fatalities, according to Northwestern Energy. When cranes come in contact with live power lines, all metal surfaces of the crane become energized and dangerous. These types of accidents put the operator and surrounding workers at serious risk of permanent and fatal electrocution injuries.

Why Crane Accidents Occur

According to the Konecrane Training Institute, about 74 percent of all crane accidents nationwide occur during routine jobs in construction. Based on OSHA’s reports on overhead crane accidents in a 10-year-period, Konecrane found 249 incidents—133 resulted in injuries, and 133 resulted in fatalities.

  • Crushed by a load that is unstable, swinging, or dropped (37%)
  • Load dropped (27%)
  • Cause by a fall from heights of over 8ft.(12%)
  • Injured person was struck or run over by crane (11%)
  • Improper or absent lock out- tag out policy (6%)
  • Other (7%)

The crane accidents involving a worker being crushed by a load resulted in 33.8 percent of all fatalities reported in the 10-year-period. Incidents involving workers who were crushed or run over by a crane resulted in the highest rate of fatal injuries, showing only a 7 percent survival rate.

Sadly, the Konecrane study also found approximately 838 OSHA violations that were committed among the 249 crane accidents evaluated. Had these violations been corrected prior to these accidents, it’s possible that hundreds of lives could have been saved.

OSHA identifies several red flags that can predict when a crane accident may occur:

  • Poor Maintenance:Some cranes that lead to serious and fatal accidents were not properly maintained. When cranes are left unsecured, unbalanced, and unattended, catastrophic accidents are bound to occur.
  • Outdated Policies: Many of OSHA’s crane standards for construction, maritime, and general industry have not been updated since 1971. These policies do not address the advancements in hoisting technology or equipment and often leave workers unprepared.
  • Lack of Training: A large number of crane operators do not have the necessary qualifications for operating cranes safely on the job. Even with Local Law 196 of 2017, requiring construction workers to obtain 30 hours of safety training, several operators continue to work without.
  • Improper Use:Some crane accidents occur when cranes are not the best equipment to use for a particular job. Cranes lack the ability to make certain movements and can become unbalanced when overloaded, leading them to collapse or tip over.

How to Prevent Crane Accidents

Construction sites that wish to operate cranes must use caution and extreme measures to help keep their workers safe. Because most crane accidents occur in urban environments, these companies must also consider the danger they are posing to the general public, taking additional safety precautions to prevent accidents.

The following are OSHA guidelines employers and workers should be following to help reduce crane-related accidents and injuries:

  • Always inspect cranes directly before use for mechanical issues.
  • – Create a comprehensive inspection list requiring the inspection of cranes on a regular basis. Inspections should look at wiring, cracking, worn-out parts, and other damages that could lead to malfunctions.
  • Any repairs needed on cranes should be completed before they are operated.
  • Cranes should be placed on stable and flat ground at least 10-feet from electrical cables.
  • Ensure the crane does not exceed the capacity it is capable of carrying.
  • “Signal” persons should be used to assist the operator.
  • Riggers and crane operators should not be operating any machinery without proper training.
  • Before operating a crane, an emergency plan should be implemented in the case of inclement weather.
  • Make sure all materials being moved are secured to prevent falling debris.

For more information on crane operation and safety, visit the OSHA page on compliance directives for cranes and derricks in construction.

New York City Accident Attorneys

The majority of crane accidents are 100 percent preventable with the proper training and care. At the law firm of Pazer Epstein Jaffe Fein & Gozenput, P.C., we have been fighting for New York City workers and victims of unnecessary construction accidents for over 60 years. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious construction injury, our knowledgeable team of accident attorneys is here to help.

Contact us using our convenient online form or feel free to phone us in New York at 212-227-1212, or in Huntington/Long Island at 631-864-2429.


Feuerherd, Ben. “Glass falls from NYC building that had recent crane accident.” New York Post. (Retrieved March 3, 2021) https://nypost.com/2020/11/17/glass-falls-from-nyc-building-that-had-recent-crane-accident/

Burke, Kerry. “Debris plunges from Midtown NYC skyscraper and spins around in remnants of Hurricane Zeta wind.” Daily News. (Retrieved March 3, 2021)https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-manhattan-crane-collapse-20201029-zi2p6ozhnvavtpvil7ezrpcfve-story.html

“Crews respond after arm of crane breaks at 31-story building in Brooklyn.” ABC 7. (Retrieved March 3, 2021)https://abc7ny.com/crane-collapse-brooklyn-greenpoint-arm/10331056/

“New Crane Safety Study Reveals Frightening Statistics”. Konecranes Traning Institute. (Retrieved March 3, 2021)

“Crane and Hoist Safety.” OSHA Archive. (Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://www.osha.gov/archive/oshinfo/priorities/crane.html

“Overhead Power Line Safety for Contractors.” NorthWestern Energy. (Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://www.northwesternenergy.com/docs/default-source/documents/safety/overhead_safety_brochure

“Compliance Directive for the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (Retrieved: September 6, 2019) https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-02-01-057

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