June 24, 2019 | Mark Paradies

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: The Collapse of Big Blue

What happened?

Here is a video about the collapse of the Big Blue crane during the construction of the Miller Park baseball stadium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When the accident occurred, Big Blue—one of the world’s largest cranes at 567 feet–was being used to lift a 400-ton retractable roof for the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team’s new stadium at Miller Park. Three construction workers were killed when the crane bent in half and collapsed.

The video interviews ironworkers, who seem to imply that accidents will happen.

What was learned?

The construction workers were in a cage hoisted by another crane inside the new Miller Park Stadium at the time of the accident. The crane operator and two other workers were killed and five others injured as 1,200 tons of concrete and debris rained down. Seven hundred other construction workers had been removed as a precaution during the lifting of the retractable roof.

Big Blue’s size requires a 1,150-ton counterweight to keep it balanced. The crane’s collapse triggered a shock severe enough to be measured on the nearest seismograph, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

How can root cause analysis help prevent this type of accident? 

Construction work is among the deadliest occupations in the U.S. When we apply the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis System to this accident, we pinpoint causal factors. Some examples are:

  • The construction companies for this job were under pressure to finish work at the site on schedule, no matter the risks being taken.
  • The widow of one of the deceased construction workers told the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office that high winds were top of mind for the workers, and that they did not want to proceed with the roof lift due to hazardous circumstances. The examiner’s report states that “there had been an argument about the advisability of placing the roof section; reportedly some ironworkers felt the weather, i.e., the wind, was too strong.” Also, one of the workers called the union voicing his concerns 75 minutes prior to the crane’s collapse.
  • The safety director for the stadium had vacated his position three months prior to the accident.

Proactive problem-solving utilizing the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis techniques trains users to spot Precursor Incidents (failed Safeguards or Hazards) before an accident happens.

You can’t afford to wait for the causes of Precursor Incidents to come together to cause a major accident. Fix them when they provide a warning and avoid the devastation of a fatality, major fire, explosion, regulatory fine, or major customer complaint. See our books and the list of upcoming TapRooT® Courses being held around the world

Please leave your ideas in the comments section.

Accident, Human Performance, Safety
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