Lyondell Crane Collapse Overview

On Friday, July 18th 2008, four workers were killed and several others were injured when a crane collapsed at the Lyondell refinery in Houston, TX. The crane, owned by Deep South Crane & Rigging, collapsed as workers were about to begin a turnaround project, which is a period of off-line maintenance for the units.

The crane, described as one of the largest mobile cranes in the nation, stood 300 feet tall with a 400 foot boom. The crane at the refinery had been delivered in pieces and assembled on site within the last month. It was brought in to remove the roof of the coker unit so large drums could be removed from inside.

In 2005 and 2006, Texas led the nation in crane related fatalities. The state does not require crane operators to be licensed, nor does the state offer any oversight or regulation, leaving that job to federal regulators. However, federal law, much of which is nearly 40 years old, only requires that inspection records be kept, but not submitted to any oversight authority.

In 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) levied steep fines against Deep South Crane & Rigging for eight separate safety violations after an investigation into the massive crane collapse. Among other things, the investigation found that the crane operator responsible had been given no training and was performing his first day on the job. The company also failed to follow internal procedures to set cautionary alarms and measure an appropriate radius around the rig. The failure to set the alarms resulted in the crane boom sitting too high for three hours, ultimately causing the hydraulics to fail and sending the 420 foot boom crashing to the ground.

Deep South Crane & Rigging eventually admitted negligence in the accident and settled over 20 separate lawsuits brought by workers who were injured during the collapse. The workers were represented by Brent Coon & Associates.

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