WorkSafeBC has several initiatives planned in 2020 to ensure the estimated 300 tower cranes operating in the province are in proper working order and will not pose a danger to workers or the public.
This year, a five-member provincial crane inspection team will focus on how cranes are assembled and disassembled and ensure that site co-ordination, pre-planning and crane technician qualifications are in order.
As part of the initiative, inspectors will educate employers on the difference between crane operator qualification and certification. Employers will need to confirm that operators have demonstrated competency and are familiar with the operating and maintenance instructions for the crane they are operating.
The inspectors will also be checking to see that all employers are inspecting and undertaking preventive maintenance as frequently and in-depth as required by the crane manufacturer or industry standard, and that annual inspections of mobile equipment include all critical machine components such as structural, mechanical and controls and that they are examined by qualified persons.
The stepped-up activity is all part of a three-year Tower Crane Initiative that began in 2018 to identify and eliminate tower crane industry hazards and unsafe work practices that have potential to cause serious injury, death or catastrophic equipment failure.
“We know that tower cranes are vital pieces of equipment on every construction site,” explains Al Johnson, vice-president prevention services at WorkSafeBC. “We also know these cranes have the potential to be the most hazardous piece of on-site equipment. We created the Tower Crane Initiative because of the large number of serious incidents related to these types of cranes.
“All these serious incidents have the potential for serious worker injury, death or catastrophic equipment failure and all these incidents are avoidable.”
Each year, the crane team identifies specific equipment risks, unsafe work practices of regulatory negligence and develops an industry consultation, education and inspection objective to eliminate the hazard.
Throughout 2019, the focus was on addressing the potential for crane contact in site pre-planning, risk assessment and control measures.
In partnership with the BC Association for Crane Safety, officials met with crane industry erectors to discuss assembly and disassembly risks and safe work procedures and practices and the two organizations co-hosted a conference for tower crane industry suppliers, owners, engineers, erectors and technicians to discuss safety practices for tower crane operation, inspection, certification and new technology.
“This is a key issue for us, and we are working with a number of industry stakeholders, including the BC Association of Crane Safety and International Union of Operating Engineers, as well as with crane owners, contractors and employers right across the province,” notes Johnson. “Everyone has an important role in crane safety.
According to WorkSafeBC, incidents involving crane operators show most time-loss claims are caused by slips, trips and falls, hearing loss and by being struck by something, such as tools, equipment and loads.
Figures for the last six months of 2019 show there were 40 crane “misadventures” in B.C. The cranes involved 24 tower cranes, five mobile cranes, four overhead or davit cranes, four boom trucks and three unidentified.
Fifty-five per cent of the accidents were due to operator error, 25 per cent were due to mechanical failure, eight per cent were due to control failure and 12 per cent were not identified.
Johnson says that owners, prime contractors and employers are ultimately responsible for the safety of their worksites, both for their workers and members of the public, and it’s critical for them to ensure that specifications of manufacturers are adhered to, that safe work procedures are followed, and also that they comply with Part 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, Cranes and Hoists.
“Planning is a critical step and should be undertaken early on in a project,” he notes. “Lift planning includes the identification, assessment, and control of all foreseeable workplace, crane, load, and environmental risks. The complexity of the workplace, crane assembly/disassembly or lift will determine the amount of planning detail required.”