The Department of Labor, Education and Skills Development (MLTSD) recently launched a consultation to “modernize and clarify” existing requirements for the use of cranes under existing Ontario legislation.

Two industry stakeholders want to make sure those with firsthand experience have their say.

Mike Gallagher, business manager at the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 793, said the IUOE has focused on improving the safety of tower cranes for years.

“We did a full consultation in 2008 and there was a 45-page document that was handed over to the Ministry of Labor in 2013, with many recommendations to amend the Building Project Ordinance 213/91 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to improve the safety of tower cranes,” said Gallagher. “You only acted recently.”

IUOE staff are currently investigating incidents involving cranes, both mobile and tower cranes, that have occurred over the past five years. Preliminary figures show that 40 incidents have occurred, including nine injured and seven fatalities.

The current state consultation “Improvement of the occupational safety requirements for tower cranes” concentrates on individual sections of the occupational safety law, including the building project ordinance, O. Reg.-Nr. 213/91 and O. Reg.-Nr. 420/21: Notices and reports under sections 51 to 53.1 of the Act – deaths, serious injuries, occupational diseases and other incidents.

Sahil Shoor, partner at Gowling WLG, recently co-authored an article on the subject with Michael Piaseczny, who was a law student in the summer.

“We wanted to educate people in the construction industry to make sure they know this consultation process has started and if they have something to say, that they are participating,” said Shoor. “Now is the time to start the consultation to provide feedback from people who have the necessary skills and who deal with health and safety issues on a daily basis.”

There have been numerous tower crane incidents across Canada over the past two years, including multiple collapses in Toronto and the most recent crane collapse that killed five people on a construction site in downtown Kelowna, BC in July.

“Health and safety requirements are so important,” said Shoor. “We want to make sure that the construction workers on the construction site return to their families at the end of the day and that no health and safety accidents occur.”

A consultation paper published by the MLTSD outlines 20 recommendations with six main objectives, including:

  • Introduction of new reporting requirements with regard to the use of tower cranes;
  • Clarification of requirements for design, installation, maintenance and inspection requirements including the keeping of records;
  • Referring to the Professional Engineers of Ontario standard of practice for reviewing tower cranes and clarifying the role and responsibilities of professional engineers in the design, assembly and inspection of tower cranes, including certifying tower cranes as safe for use after repairs or after a fault diagnosis;
  • Introduce new and update existing references to relevant national and international standards related to the design and operation of tower cranes;
  • Update and introduction of new training requirements for crane operators; and
  • to accommodate technological advances by adding new and specific requirements for self-erecting tower cranes.

Gallagher states that the IUOE is committed to investigating incidents and ensuring change.

“There are really three main reasons why an accident will happen. It could be a mechanical failure, it could be a boom operator error, or it could be environmental or weather-related, ”said Gallagher. “For mechanical failure … it caused 10 accidents. Operator Rigger Error got 17 and Weather, Environment got five. And the unknown cause of the accident is eight which is why we’re still busy investigating this.

“We need to drill down and find out what the root cause was.”

The IUOE plans to make a number of recommendations to the MLTSD during the consultation process. Since the Ontario College of Trades was announced that it would be liquidated, studies have shown there are no enforcement issues with licensing, Gallagher noted.

One recommendation they have already made to the government deals with the mechanical suitability of equipment and the need to retire equipment after a certain period of time.

“There’s no real rule that says a crane has to be retired after a certain amount of time, which means that more and more maintenance problems end up,” explains Gallagher. “In some cases the manufacturer has gone out of business … that is, if there is a problem, there is no way to find replacement parts.

“Another thing we’d like to see to further reduce user error incidents is more training,” he added.

Comments can be emailed to The deadline for submitting feedback on the regulatory proposal is September 13th.

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