A MP has called on the government to tighten regulations on tower cranes following the death of a woman in a crane collapse last year.
Labor’s Aspana Begum claimed the current rules for designing and operating tower cranes are “worryingly vague” in the absence of a certification system. She represents Poplar and Limehouse, the constituency in east London where a crane collapsed in July 2020 (pictured) and killed June Harvey when it destroyed her home.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that employees “have received adequate information, instructions and training” and that planners have “adequate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience” of lifting equipment. However, Begum said the current system is not robust.
She said, “There are indications that the legal framework needs to be re-examined to ensure the safe use of safe cranes as part of the safe construction of safe buildings. We need solid legislation and solid enforcement. “
In the Bow incident last year, neighboring houses were also badly damaged and around 100 people had to be evacuated from hotels. Some have not been able to return home for weeks.
Other crane collapses were also addressed during the debate. Begum particularly highlighted the 2006 Battersea crane collapse that killed two people and the length of its investigation. “I am aware that it took 10 years to investigate the culpability of the aforementioned Battersea crane incident to determine that 24 bolts in the collapsed crane were faulty,” she said, calling for HSE and Metropolitan Police investigations into the collapse of the bow faster.
Labor Secretary Mims Davies defended the current regulations by reiterating the requirements of the rules for lifting and hoisting equipment and the rules for the provision and use of work equipment.
She said machine incidents are not common. Around 800 tower cranes are in use across the UK at any given time, and 91 have reported tower crane incidents since 2011, including 11 collapses. Six people died as a result. Davies said the HSE has taken action on serious violations of the law, serving eight enforcement notices and taking eight law enforcement actions over the past decade.
“Tower cranes are subject to a comprehensive legal framework. The HSE uses the powers it has delegated to effectively regulate the safety of tower cranes, including through strict enforcement measures. It also works with industry to continuously improve safety standards for tower cranes, ”she said.
After the Battersea collapse, a crane registry was created where users sent HSE information about the cranes they were using. The registry was scrapped in 2015 because it hadn’t helped to increase security, Davies said.
Begum requested the return of the register, claiming the HSE was underfunded and therefore unable to conduct inspections effectively enough.
A subcontractor recently alleged that HSE refused to investigate allegations of health and safety violations at a site – two of which involved mobile cranes – because they were not made with photographic evidence and were not made by a current employee.
Construction News announced in January that the HSE had outsourced some of its inspections to debt collection agencies during the pandemic. The organization said the Spot Check Support Officers allow their experienced inspectors to focus on investigations and more complicated site visits.