WorkSafeBC has several initiatives planned in 2020 to ensure that the estimated 300 tower cranes operating in the province are operating properly and not posing a hazard to workers or the public.

This year, a five-person provincial crane inspection team will focus on how cranes are assembled and dismantled and ensure that the on-site coordination, pre-planning and qualification of crane technicians are in order.

As part of the initiative, the inspectors will inform employers about the difference between the qualification and certification of crane operators. Employers must confirm that the operators have demonstrated their competence and are familiar with the operating and maintenance instructions for the crane they are operating.

The inspectors will also verify that all employers review and perform the thorough preventive maintenance required by the crane manufacturer or industry standard as frequently and thoroughly and that the annual inspections of mobile equipment include all critical machine components such as structural and mechanical and controls and that they are carried out by qualified persons being checked.

The increased activity is part of a three-year tower crane initiative that began in 2018 to identify and eliminate the dangers of the tower crane industry and unsafe work practices that can result in serious injury, death, or catastrophic equipment failure.

“We know tower cranes are essential equipment on any construction site,” said Al Johnson, Vice President Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC. “We also know that these cranes can be the most dangerous equipment on site. We started the tower crane initiative due to the large number of serious incidents related to these types of cranes.

“All of these critical incidents could result in serious injury, death, or catastrophic equipment failure. All of these incidents are preventable.”

Each year, the crane team identifies specific equipment risks, unsafe work practices for regulatory negligence, and develops an industry advice, training, and inspection goal to eliminate the hazard.

Throughout 2019, the focus was on considering the potential for crane contact in pre-planning, risk assessment and on-site control measures.

Working with the BC Association for Crane Safety, officials met with crane industry fitters to discuss assembly and disassembly risks and safe work procedures and practices. The two organizations jointly hosted a conference for suppliers, owners, engineers, assemblers and technicians in the tower crane industry to discuss safety practices for the operation, inspection, certification and new technology of tower cranes.

“This is a key issue for us and we work with a number of industry stakeholders, including the BC Association of Crane Safety and the International Union of Operating Engineers, as well as crane owners, contractors and employers across the province,” noted Johnson. “Everyone plays an important role in crane safety.

According to WorkSafeBC, incidents with crane operators show that most time loss claims are caused by slips, trips and falls, hearing loss and impacts such as tools, equipment and loads.

The figures for the last half of 2019 show that there were 40 crane mishaps in BC. The cranes were 24 tower cranes, five mobile cranes, four overhead traveling or davit cranes, four jib trucks and three unidentified.

Fifty-five percent of the accidents were due to operator error, 25 percent to mechanical errors, 8 percent to control errors, and 12 percent were not identified.

According to Johnson, owners, prime contractors and employers are ultimately responsible for the safety of their construction sites, both for their workers and the public, and it is vital for them to ensure that manufacturers’ specifications are followed and that safe work practices are followed and also that they comply with Part 14 of the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance, cranes and hoists.

“Planning is a critical step and should be done early on in a project,” he notes. “Elevator planning includes the identification, evaluation and control of all foreseeable workplace, crane, load and environmental risks. The complexity of the workplace, assembly / disassembly of the crane or elevator determines the scope of the planning details required. “