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New standards proposed for concrete pumps and booms

Peter Caulfield
New standards proposed for concrete pumps and booms

A Canadian Standards Association group called CSA Z151 that is drafting new standards for concrete pumps and placing booms has written a draft that has been made available for public review.

Charles Kelly, president of Concrete BC, formerly the BC Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and a member of the CSA Z151 technical committee, said some significant changes to the standard have been proposed.

They include additional operator roles and responsibilities; the addition of qualifications for pump operators in both written and competency testing; as well as updates to the sections on design, inspection, testing and operation.

Kelly, whose association represents concrete pump owners and manufacturers, said one of the most significant parts of the draft is Section 6, which deals with operator responsibilities and actions.

"Section 6 includes a recognition that pumping is part of a complex concrete delivery system," Kelly said.

"Safety can be achieved only if each actor along this delivery system takes responsibility for their respective roles to ensure safety on the construction site."

The draft standards would also require pump operators to pass a written test and a demonstration of competency.

"We ask a car or a truck driver to meet such standards," Kelly said. "So it is definitely not a stretch to ask the operators of these complex machines, operating at high pressures, to meet operating requirements."

Kelly said he is "very satisfied" with the consensus of the committee on operators’ qualifications and responsibilities.

He expects, however, "some controversy" from industry about the section dealing with the delineation of responsibilities, "owing to some assumption of liabilities and how various regulatory bodies may interpret responsibilities."

When CSA Z151 was created in 2009, it was, for all intents and purposes, a manufacturer’s standard, Kelly said.

"There was very little in it on operator requirements," he said.

Following a concrete pump death in Ontario, the coroner recommended that CSA Z151 consider adding a requirement for operator training and certification requirements.

"This triggered a review of the existing standard," said Kelly.

After the public review has been completed in July, the technical committee will meet again in September to review and consider public comments. Then there will be a vote on finalizing the standard.

"If there are any issues requiring further study, the committee could postpone a decision for a month or two," Kelly said.

Daryl Dika, another member of the CSA Z151 technical committee and a corporate equipment manager at REACH Construction Services Group in Edmonton, said new standards for operator qualifications and competency are required because concrete pumps and booms are potentially very dangerous.

"Pumping units are equipped with outriggers and proper safe set-up procedures need to be taught and adhered to when setting up this type of specialized equipment," Dika said. "Today’s concrete pumping equipment has variable pumping pressures and can exceed 3,000 pounds per square inch. That’s very high pressure to be working with."

In addition to taking part in drafting a new CSA Z151 standard, Concrete BC is participating in another — but separate — concrete pump safety initiative called Pump BC.

Its purpose is to establish a competency assessment regime in B.C., where none currently exists.

"This is a construction industry initiative through the BCCSA (BC Construction Safety Alliance)," said Kelly. "The BCCSA board has approved the financing to launch and deliver a voluntary concrete pump competency certification program."

Such a competency assessment regime already exists for B.C.’s construction crane industry.

"Learning from that experience, and working with industry subject matter experts, comprehensive skills standards have been established for concrete pumps in five categories of pumps," said Kelly.

Based on the skill standards, the BCCSA-led project designed assessment tools for each category of pumps.

The tools were tested in 32 pilot tests and the program was completed in 2016.

"We now have what we believe to be valid tools to assess concrete pump operator competency," Kelly said. "The proposed regime will require the passing of a written pump safety test as a precondition of a scheduled competency assessment."

Before the competency assessment initiative is put in place, the BCCSA, whose board represents the major B.C. construction industry associations, will have to jump through another regulatory hoop.

"The BCCSA will be applying to an accreditation agency to have the program undergo a third-party audit to achieve ISO certification to the 17024 standard, recognized throughout North America," said Mike McKenna, BCCSA executive director.

Anyone wishing to comment on the CSA Z151’s new draft standards must do so by July 15 here.

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