Crane Accidents

Crane Accident Shuts Down I-5/805 Merge


San Diego, California 

Report Update (01/28/04):  State Withdraws Disputed Citation

Crane Accident Shuts Down I-5/805 MergeTwo companies involved in the crane mishap that shut down the Interstate 5/805 merge Wednesday have been cited by the state in the past for safety violations, but an official characterizes the companies’ overall records as better than average.

Accidents resulting in injuries ranging from a broken leg to a severed finger have resulted in thousands of dollars in fines levied against Condon-Johnson & Associates, the company that was operating the crane in a highway project at the merge, and Maxim Crane Works, which owns and rents the equipment.

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health records show Condon-Johnson has 22 safety citations and Maxim Crane has seven citations since 1990.

The Condon-Johnson citations are “low level,” said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the safety agency. Only one of the Maxim citations was considered serious, he said.

The crane’s 120-foot-long boom snapped while lifting a 70-ton cage of reinforcement bars for a bridge column at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. The boom snagged power lanes as it fell, draping them from one side of the interchange to the other.

Both highways were closed at the merge for the morning commute, forcing tens of thousands of drivers to find alternate routes.

The work is part of a $190 million California Department of Transportation project to build truck bypasses and new off-ramps for two exits at the heart of the merge. Caltrans spokesman Tom Nipper said there should be no significant delay to the project, scheduled for completion in 2007.

Kevin Bland, an attorney heading Condon-Johnson’s internal investigation of the incident, said yesterday tests on the crane operator after the accident showed no evidence of drugs.

The cause of the boom failure, Bland said, remains unknown.

“Like any other accident of this magnitude, you’re going to have to have a deliberate investigation,” he said. “It’s going to have to be coupled with patience because it’s going to take several weeks for someone to determine exactly what the cause was.”

Fryer said the state agency won’t have anything to announce about the cause of the accident until investigators finish their work, which could take up to six months.

Maxim, a Pittsburgh-based crane rental company with locations in San Diego and five other California cities, was fined $18,000 by Cal/OSHA in March 2002 after investigators discovered the company did not have records indicating inspections had been performed on crane brakes.

Fryer said the violation was classified “serious” because it could have resulted in death or injury to operators.

A second citation against Maxim, which was once known as Anthony Crane Rental, resulted in a $2,700 penalty being assessed against the company because slings used to lift loads were not properly inspected for deformities that could cause instability when the loads were lifted.

Last November, the company was fined $935 after a load shifted and the pallet slammed into a worker, shattering his leg.

Maxim wouldn’t comment on its safety record in the wake of the accident.

Accidents drawing fines for Condon-Johnson, an Oakland-based company that specializes in building bridges, include an accident in which a worker lost a finger. The company was fined $300 in April 1998 for not reporting an accident to the state within a timely manner.

The company is facing a $5,750 penalty in connection with a March 1998 mishap in which an employee’s ankle was broken when a load on a crane shifted and hit him, according to state records.

Other violations on Condon-Johnson’s record include improper record keeping, inadequate safety signs and other administrative violations of safety codes.

Bland said he couldn’t comment on the the company’s citations until he had a chance to study them further.

But Fryer said they are “probably a little less than average for what we would see in this type of industry . . . it doesn’t appear that their history is that bad at all.”

Aside from the fine involving crane brake inspections, Fryer said Maxim’s record also is “not bad at all.”

Meanwhile, Caltrans has not yet calculated the cost of the accident, Nipper said.

If an investigation establishes who was at fault, he said, “We would likely go to the contractor or subcontractor for reimbursement of our time and our expenses for traffic control and those kinds of things.”

Category: Accident Report

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