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After Bow, we must bring back crane safety

Britain now has some of the worst crane safety in the world — and the Tories are not interested in doing anything about it, writes CHAZ STOLL

THE death earlier this month of June Harvey, 85, due to a crane collapse in Bow, east London, is absolutely tragic. The crane driver, we understand, is still in a critical condition.

Our thoughts are with the families and all those affected by the collapse.

We do not know the detail of why this happened, but await the outcome of a complete investigation.

As construction workers will know, this crane collapse is by no means a one-off incident — there has been a history of cranes collapsing.

After a crane collapse in Battersea in 2006 in which the crane driver Jonathan Cloke was killed along with Michael Alexia, a member of the public, the Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group was formed.

Alongside the Construction Safety Campaign it lobbied for changes to the law.

This led to success in getting the Conventional Tower Crane Regulations passed in 2009 and the registration of cranes.

These crucial steps forward in safety were all thrown into the bin when a Tory government was returned to power in 2010.

Once more, with the events in Bow, it is clear and vital that the rescinded regulations from 2009 need to be brought back, extended and applied to all cranes.

It was just three years ago, in 2017, that a crane collapse in Glasgow killed Gary Currie and seriously injured another.

In Crewe, three men were killed in the June of the same year, David Newall, Rhys Barker and David Webb, when a crane collapsed there.

How can we as a country give working people health and safety in the crane industry?

The Construction Safety Campaign believes that:

  • All cranes should be subject to testing and inspection by specialist crane companies that are independent of the crane provider and operator companies.
  • There should be a shelf-life limitation on each crane after which they must be scrapped.
  • Fatigue of crane drivers and daylight limitations must be considered with restrictions placed on the number of hours of worked.
  • Consultation must take place with members of the public who could be affected prior to cranes being used on site.
  • Laws must be put in place so that crane operators or any other construction worker should not fear that by making complaints about lack of safety they could be under the threat of losing their job or and being blacklisted from future employment if they raise health and safety concerns. In addition, companies that have been found guilty of such practice should not be allowed to tender for either public or private work.
  • Cranes prior to use on site will have a crane safety erection and operations plan along with a permit to work file which must show: the safety plan for the erection of cranes and risk assessments and methods of work required from each operation carried out by the crane.
  • Far greater numbers of visits by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors to construction sites before, during and after cranes are erected. Also visits to the company depots that are used to carry out the tests and maintenance of crane’s prior to their delivery to construction sites.
  • Greater attention to the testing and examination of bolts is important as they are the weakest link if not suitable and not tightened properly.
  • Competence of erectors and drivers and checks on the competence of substitute crane drivers
  • Poster/emergency plans to be on site as well as on a database. These plans must involve the immediate local community.
  • Identification of cranes by numbers on the side of these cranes to be linked to a HSE database of history of these cranes, date of manufacture, amount and type of use, record of any damage to these cranes, any past dangerous occurrence resulting from their operations.
  • Larger fines and the use of corporate manslaughter prosecutions for directors of companies whose failure to provide safe workplaces leads to the deaths and serious injuries of workers and members of the public.

These points, I’m sure readers agree, are not wild demands on the construction industry and government — they are simply about care and safety of people.

It is unbelievable that Britain is actually now one of the worst countries in the entire world for tower crane accidents.

In the decade before the Crane Register, the HSE noted there were 60 crane accidents causing nine deaths and 25 serious injuries.

But increasingly, prosecutions by the HSE take an enormous amount of time — 10 years in the case of Battersea.

This is a callous way to treat bereaved families who not only suffer the totally unnecessary and negligent death of a loved ones but are then plunged into many years of legal nightmares.

The Construction Safety Campaign believes that the Crane Regulations must be reinstated.

This is not about “red tape,” as the Tories would have us believe: this is about people’s lives.

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