CICB Crane Expert Witnesses

CICB has three expert witnesses on staff.

John O’Connor is General Manager of their Houston Training Center, as well as Director of their Career School.

Jerry Longtin is the Orlando Training Center General Manager and Senior Instructor.

Larry Kime is a Senior Instructor and CICB’s Technical Advisor.

All three are NCCCO-certified crane operators, riggers, lift directors and inspectors, as well as full-time instructors, with decades of experience in the industry and multiple engagements as crane expert witnesses.

1. Why do crane accidents happen?

Jerry Longtin – While data is limited on precisely how many accidents occur each year, we do know that on average, one person dies each week as a result of a crane accident, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The financial cost of 1 fatality (to include legal fees) is estimated by the National Safety Council at $1.22 million.

There are of course a multiplicity of reasons why crane accidents occur. Broadly speaking, however, there are two primary causes of incidents involving mobile cranes: overload and improper set up (including proximity to power lines).


John O’Connor – The overhead crane and hoist world is a little different. In this case, while some are a result of not properly controlling the load, accidents are largely the result of faulty rigging practices.

Research shows that the vast majority of dropped loads happen because of rigging failure. Most often, the sling is cut on the edge of the load.


Larry Kime – Determining the types of accidents is one factor in understanding why crane accidents happen. Just as important a consideration is the responsibility of personnel.

Dr. Jim Wiethorn’s seminal research on crane accidents found that 93% of mobile crane incidents are attributable to human error. Importantly, only 26% of these are ever caused by the crane operator, highlighting the importance of the Lift Director (25%) and Site Supervisor (21%) in lifting operations.


2. How can I prevent crane accidents happening again?

LK – Given the statistical responsibility of Lift Directors and Site Supervisors in documented crane accidents, the mitigation of these is achievable through three, simple steps.

First, there must be a qualified person in charge. Whether known or not, someone is always in charge. The key difference here is that they must be qualified.

In turn, that qualified person must make a plan for the lift. This should be as detailed as is necessary, depending on the complexity of the lift.

Finally, and crucially, the qualified person in charge must communicate the lift plan to everyone involved in the pick.


JOC – Larry’s emphasis on qualified personnel is very deliberate, and begs the question, what is the definition of ‘qualified’?

Both OSHA and ANSI/ASME (the author of public safety standards related to cranes and lifting that informs OSHA regulations) define a ‘qualified person’ as, “a person who, by possession of a recognized degree in an applicable field or a certificate of professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter and work.”

Crucially, it is the employer’s responsibility to determine the qualification level of their personnel and the further responsibility to designate personnel to roles for which they have been deemed qualified.


JL – Fundamentally, safe and successful lifts that are incident- and accident-free depend on high-levels of communication and collaboration.

Key to the core of that communication is the appropriate designation of roles and responsibilities. Each person involved with the lift must understand how they are involved and what is the expectation of them.

Finally, it is only through rigorous and job-specific training that we can ensure all personnel are capable of meeting the responsibilities clearly communicated to them.


3. Are subject-matter experts well-placed to prevent crane accidents like these?

JOC – Inevitably, companies hire subject-matter experts (SME) after an accident has occurred. While less than ideal, there is much that they can do.

A thorough accident report will often uncover not just the underlying cause of the accident, but additional areas of concern (such as company policy, personnel training and the degree of sophistication of the lift plan) that can be easily addressed.

Such a visit should spur an ongoing partnership between companies and crane experts that can prevent future accidents.


LK – Ideally, SMEs should be called in before an accident ever occurs. There are two key deliverables they should provide.

The first centers on a management-assist visit. Beginning with a walkthrough of the client’s facility or jobsite, this visit will enable the SME to identify potential problems before they arise.

Similarly, such a visit could include a review of all documentation, including policies and procedures, to ensure OSHA-compliance and safe practice. Following the visit, an SME should also be able to arrange for additional training for employees where needed.


JL – While SMEs should be experienced and versatile enough to perform a number of functions and train every individual involved in crane picks, their value in preventing accidents is best seen in their training of management.

It is those individuals in positions of oversight who are often neglected despite, paradoxically, their integral role in shaping policies and procedures that directly bear on the likelihood or otherwise of accidents.

Customized training for these stakeholders is imperative in preventing crane accidents.


4. What legal considerations should be taken into account when hiring a subject-matter expert on crane accidents?

JL – In the courtroom, knowledge, experience, and credibility matter. Finding an SME who is not only an expert in witness testimony, but also in crane operations themselves is paramount.

Look for SMEs with NCCCO certifications (the industry standard), field experience and a deep understanding of the words and intent of each of the four sources of policy and procedure: the manufacturer’s guidelines, company policy, OSHA regulations and ANSI/ASME standards.

It is also worth looking for organizations with recognizable affiliations, such as Specialized Crane & Rigging Association (SC&RA) and the National Safety Council.

JOC – An SME called on for Expert Witness Testimony in the event of a crane accident should be able to provide a suite of services.

These should include preliminary consultations, a review of case documents, data collection from a site investigation, consultation with the client and testimony in court.

LK – Any SME in the field of cranes should be able to provide a thorough and detailed accident investigation. They should be adept at working with owners, users, insurance providers and attorneys.

Make sure investigation services include site visits, photography, witness interviews, collection of all pertinent data and lab analysis of suspected failed components.

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Crane, Forklift & Rigging Expert Witness

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About CICB

Crane Inspection & Certification Bureau (CICB) was founded in 1969 as the first independent agency accredited by the US Department of Labor to provide third-party inspection and certification of equipment for the crane and lifting industry. CICB offers customized training to operators, inspectors, riggers, signal persons, trainers and supervisors as well as third-party equipment inspections and specialized services such as accident investigations and expert witness work throughout the United States and abroad.