The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115 is calling on communities and province to reform requirements for assembling and dismantling cranes following a collapse that killed five people in Kelowna, BC

“I was shocked,” said Frank Carr, Local 115 sales representative, remembering hearing the news that a crane had collapsed on a construction site in downtown Kelowna. “I couldn’t believe it happened again.”

He cited other serious crane break-ins in Seattle, Texas and eastern Canada as reasons for urgent industry reform.

Carr said the union has been campaigning for mandatory certification of tower crane operators and improved industrial safety standards for nearly 20 years. Vancouver alone has around 80 active tower cranes and 200 are in use across the province. He found that the crews often assemble and dismantle large cranes under tight deadlines in high-traffic areas.

Carr’s efforts had been successful recently after meetings with Vancouver officials, undersigned contractors, and industry stakeholders formed a task force to review tower crane safety regulations. The city is currently running a pilot project that is implementing many of the working group’s recommendations

The pilot project included the following reforms:

  • Meetings and checklists before and after the meeting;
  • complete lane closures and better traffic control;
  • Assembly and disassembly of tower cranes on weekdays;
  • Closure of pedestrian and cycle paths;
  • larger staging and mobile crane installation areas; and
  • Permit extensions and additional full days to erect and dismantle the crane to relieve pressure on workers to get the job done on tight deadlines.

“I would like to commend the city for taking a leadership approach to this work,” said Carr. “It’s been a fundamental change in the city and I hope other cities will adopt the recommendations we have and we hope Vancouver will move this from being a pilot to a mandatory one.”

Carr also urged the public to educate themselves about the dangers on construction sites and better understand the detours involved.

“People don’t want to be harassed, they don’t want the road to be closed, the bike path not to be closed,” said Carr. “I get it. Our lives are busy, but we have tried to educate the public about the seriousness of construction sites and what is going on on them. Unfortunately, in this incident we can see how large the damage zone can be if a crane collapses.”

On-site, the Operating Engineers Training Association operates 40 acres of training grounds in Maple Ridge, BC, providing approximately 1,700 apprentices and journeymen with training on heavy equipment and skills improvement annually.

“It’s unfortunate and terrible,” Carr said of the breakdown. “We have to do everything we can to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

The crane collapsed on June 12, toppling the structure from a residential tower under construction onto an adjacent building. Four construction workers were killed. The fifth person was buried in ruins while working in a nearby building. His body was recovered on July 14th.

The Kelowna incident came just days after the collapse of a smaller service crane in Toronto and a few months after a report found a 68-tonne construction crane overturned during a 2019 post-tropical storm in Halifax due to a welding fault.

It also comes after three Toronto crane incidents in 2020 that triggered a tower crane safety flash from the Ontario Department of Labor.

Serious injuries were not reported in these incidents.

  • With files from the Canadian press