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Improper maintenance may have caused fatal construction accident

Pennsylvania workers know that construction sites have the potential to injure and even kill those who work in them. Over the years, the construction industry has adopted a number of measures designed to improve workplace safety and reduce the number of workplace accidents. Unfortunately, proper safety standards are not always observed, and officials are investigating whether improper maintenance could have been the cause of a crane collapse that killed a construction worker this week.

The accident occurred at the site of a subway expansion project. According to investigators, the crane was not lifting an object when, without warning, one of its supporting cables gave way. Its boom arm fell to the ground, where it killed one construction worker.

Investigators are questioning why a steel cable would break suddenly, especially when the crane was not in operation. According to one owner of a company that performs crane inspections, the steel cable is the part of a crane most susceptible to breakage, especially if the crane is performing heavy lifting. During the construction project, the crane in question was in frequent operation and bore loads up to 90,000 pounds.

That has led officials to examine the crane's inspection record. There is a well-established timetable for checking a crane's parts and performing maintenance if necessary. If a crane is performing more rigorous tasks, it may undergo more frequent inspections. The crane last received a complete check-up last summer, had a partial one in January and was scheduled for another two days after the deadly collapse.

But officials have stated that they have discovered problems with the crane's "hoisting system," and they believe that the trouble could have developed since the most recent inspection. One investigator suggested that the collapse could have been caused by "poor maintenance over a period of time."

Source: The New York Times, "City Officials Cite Defects in Hoisting System of Crane That Collapsed, Killing a Worker," Al Baker, April 5, 2012.

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