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Crane accident kills New Jersey worker at edge of Newark Bay

Tools, equipment and machines used in Bergen County construction projects can be dangerous for workers who aren't trained to use them. Qualifications and sometimes certifications are necessary to operate heavy machinery. Safety at construction sites also depends on employer attitudes toward safety, which can be influenced by deadlines and profits.

Crane accidents occur when operators accidentally strike objects, like active power lines, or hit someone outside the cab. The heavy machines also may overturn or collapse when the ground beneath them is unstable. According to the Daily Reporter, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated crane safety rules four years ago, which included making contractors accountable for unsafe ground conditions.

A crane operator recently died while working on an excavation project near the New Jersey Turnpike Extension bridge. Two cranes were set up near one another along Newark Bay, when the operator of one crane noticed the other machine moving forward. At first, the worker believed the other operator was repositioning his crane.

The witness said the crane slipped in mud or collapsed and tipped forward, falling into the water with the operator trapped inside. The second crane operator immediately jumped in the bay to try to get his friend and colleague out, but realized there was no way to help him. Most of the crane was under water in seconds and tilted down into the bay bottom.

It took emergency personnel and other workers most of the day to pull the crane out of the water so the operator's body could be recovered. The witness said he and his co-worker were employees of Global Development Contracting in Belleville. OSHA said the company was cited in 2012 for an excavation safety violation.

Workers' compensation insurance covers New Jersey construction site injuries and provides benefits for family members when accidents are fatal. An attorney can make sure victims receive compensation from all available sources.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "Crane operator was in cab when it toppled at Port of Newark, co-worker says" Seth Augenstein and Steve Strunsky, Jun. 05, 2014

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