HALIFAX – Building construction experts say the sight of another crumpled crane in Canada may be unsettling, but the towering equipment that powers the country’s construction boom has a world-class safety record.
Despite a small number of recent incidents, they say construction cranes are extremely safe and crane operators in Canada are among the most skilled in the world.
“People should feel safe walking around cranes like they would board a plane for a flight,” said Mohamed Al-Hussein, professor of civil engineering at the University of Alberta.
“These crane operators are really no different from pilots,” he said. “You go through rigorous training and long training. There are no abbreviations. “
Five people were killed after a crane collapsed Monday in Kelowna, BC, and the structure fell from a residential tower under construction onto an adjacent building.
The incident occurred just days after a smaller service crane collapsed in Toronto and a few months after a report found that a 68-tonne construction crane overturned during a 2019 post-tropical storm in Halifax was due to a welding fault.
No casualties were reported in these incidents.
Al-Hussein said crane failures are extremely rare given the number in operation.
The machines are also developed and certified by engineers and checked regularly, he said.
Although accidents are rare, Al-Hussein said that erecting and dismantling cranes poses the highest risk.
“When you dismantle a crane, you unload part of the crane and overload the other parts of the crane, and that’s where the risk of failure is higher,” said Al-Hussein.
The cause of the crane crash in Kelowna is still being investigated, but police say workers on the site were preparing to dismantle the crane or were in the process of dismantling it when it fell.
When it comes to erecting or dismantling a crane, according to Al-Hussein, each step of the process follows specific procedures developed by engineers that take factors such as wind and weather into account, making the risk of breakdowns or errors extremely low.
“The public should be reassured that cranes are safe and Canadian crane operators are likely to be the best in the world,” he said.
Tamer E. El-Diraby, a professor of engineering at the University of Toronto, said there are strict standards for the design and operation of cranes.
The best way to ensure the continued safety of cranes is through continuous training, he said in an email.
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