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Look Up: Why that crane you see is likely safe

Posted at 4:46 PM, May 16, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — It seems like nearly every week another crane is popping up in southern Colorado. Whether to build businesses, housing, or entertainment spaces- they're everywhere.

“Colorado [is] still experiencing a boom. So we're going to continue to see cranes, which is completely different [from] other parts of the country where you can drive around [and] there's there's not much crane activity going on,” Russ Galvin Director of Operations for the Colorado Crane Operator’s School in Frederick.

Cranes make constructing buildings more efficient and in most cases, possible.

“Without it, it would just make our lives more difficult. We'd find a way around it, but it does make it easier,” Ed Machado, Corporate Safety Manager with Bryan Construction said.

While cranes are becoming a common addition to Colorado skylines, Machado and Galvin say there’s not really a concern for safety for people walking and driving by.

“They’re 100% safe,” Galvin said, “I wouldn’t think as you see more cranes over there that there should be growing need for more concern.”

Even with reports of crane collapses in Florida and a toppled crane in Pueblo last year, they argue safety is paramount.

Crane collapses are rare but can be deadly. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 297 crane related deaths nationwide between 2011-2017.

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How crane collapses happen can depend on a variety of factors: wind speed, too heavy of a load for the crane, and according to Galvin it often comes down to operator error.

“every incident an accident is its own accident, but all of them are 100% preventable, but each one's their own individual incident,” Galvin said.

Cranes typically have safety features such as anemometers, to measure wind speed, and sensors to monitor the load.

A CRANE ON THE CONSTRUCTION SITE

Most people may be starting their workday at 9 a.m on Wednesday morning in downtown Colorado Springs.

For the dozens of construction workers building “The Hunter” apartment building, the day is a couple of hours underway.

Sounds of saws whirring and hammers hitting panels fill the air, but a high pitched whistle on the job will stop you in your tracks.

Machado said that’s exactly the point.

The whistle blows and lets construction workers at the site know a load is about to be lifted from the crane on site.

This particular crane is on its first job site in the U.S. The crane operator climbs multiple stories to get up to his cab, where he’ll remain through his shift.

“You’ve got to have a pretty good stomach for it,” Machado said.

Inspections on cranes happen everyday by the crane operator. An in-depth inspection also takes place every year, by a third party like the crane operator school.

CRANE INSPECTION REGULATIONS

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States with additional regulations beyond OSHA.

Most states rely on regulations for crane operators and inspections through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

A few states add licensing requirements, Colorado is not one of them. It's something Galvin doesn't see as necessary.

"The regulations are already there, they're not introducing new standards, but because the standards are already there and existing," Galvin said.
"So when done properly, you know, [the] Crane is going to operate safely and efficiently."

Crane operators are typically accredited through a group like the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCO) which requires written and practical exams.

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