17th December 2013
Accidents and accidents claims involving tower cranes are rare and the horrific incident of a helicopter, which crashed into a tower crane and killed two people in Vauxhall, central London this week, has to be thought of as a tragic one-off.
However, in 2009, a 79-metre-high tower crane, which was being used to build a new eight-storey hotel and seven apartment blocks at Kings Dock Mill, Liverpool City Centre, collapsed killing the driver. The HSE investigation found that a basic mistake in loading calculations meant that the foundations were secured with steel rods rather than steel reinforcement bars and were unequal to withstand the forces generated by the crane.
One year earlier, in September 2008, a tower crane near Waterloo station dropped a 380kg air conditioning unit into the street injuring a female pedestrian. The HSE found that the crane and operational lifting slings had not been correctly fitted.
The incident occurred, coincidentally, on the same day, two year earlier (2006), when a crane collapsed in Battersea, killing the crane driver and a member of the public. The ensuing investigation discovered a combination of repair errors combined with a lack of risk assessment to detect and rectify faults.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), since 2001, there have been 61 accidents involving tower cranes, 9 people have died, and 25 have been seriously injured.
The two main hazards of crane collapse and falling of the load are always a serious concern whenever a tower crane is employed at a building site. Other known causes of accidents have involved being struck by moving loads, cranes colliding with each other or making contact with ‘live’ overhead cables.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states employers must ensure, so far as is reasonable practicable, the wellbeing of their staff members within the workplace. Thus, duty-holders should first carry out a full and thorough risk assessment to ensure any potential risks are minimised, controlled or eliminated.
The HSE list the following important steps employers must carry out in advance of planned use of a tower crane:
• Plan lifting operations and ensure they are carried out safely. • Make sure workers are competent and have been appropriately trained. • Implement a safe system of work. • Where appropriate, supervise any lifting operations. • Ensure competent people carry out a thorough examination of the machine and perform regular maintenance. • Make sure pre-use checks are carried out at the start of every shift to ensure the crane is still fit-for purpose. • Report the location of the tower crane to the HSE.
Click here for more information about crane safety at the HSE website.