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Crewe deaths lead to calls for new tower crane regs

Unions have urged the government to review axed regulation on the use of tower cranes on sites following the death of two construction workers in Crewe last week.

Unite and GMB both told Construction News the government needed to immediately review regulation surrounding the use of tower cranes.

This should include the reintroduction of a national register for all tower cranes, they said, after it was scrapped in 2013.

The unions made the comments following the deaths of Falcon Tower Crane Services workers David Newall and Rhys Barker following a crane collapse on a Seddon site.

Mr Newall, 36, from Bradford, and Mr Barker, 18, from Castleford, died while erecting a Potain MC85B tower crane on the Dunwoody Way site in Crewe.

A postmortem concluded both men had died from crush injuries.

Cheshire Police confirmed a third worker had been released from intensive care but remained in a serious condition, adding that his injuries were “believed to be life-changing”.

An investigation into the circumstances of the crane collapse is being carried out in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Unite national officer for construction Bernard McAulay said the Crewe incident had led to growing concerns about tower crane safety and said ”a beefed up register should be immediately reinstated to restore confidence”.

The GMB backed calls for the reintroduction of the more stringent regulation, saying events like the fire at Grenfell Tower which has so far claimed 79 lives and the fatalities in Crewe raised “serious questions about the toll that deregulation has taken”.

A spokesman for GMB said: “We will never know whether this tragedy could have been prevented if the notification requirements were still in place, but it might have made a difference.”

In April 2010, as part of reforms brought in by the Labour government, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) brought in laws requiring every tower crane used on construction sites in the UK to be in a national register.

The Conventional Tower Crane Regulation 2010 placed a duty on the employer to notify the HSE of relevant information involving the address and name of crane owners.

It also placed a duty on employers to carry out thorough inspections following installation and re-installation of the crane and notify the HSE within 14 days that these inspections had taken place.

In April 2013, this law was revoked and the register scrapped by the government after a recommendation from the HSE.

The decision came following a 2011 independent government review by King’s Centre of Risk Management director Ragnar Löfstedt looking into health and safety legislation.

As part of the review, Prof Löfstedt called for the Tower Cranes regulation to be scrapped after an impact assessment was “not able to identify any quantifiable benefits to health and safety outcomes”.

Unite said these regulations should never been revoked and that a new register was of paramount importance to the construction sector.

Following the Crewe fatalities, Falcon Tower Crane Services said it would “leave no stone unturned” to establish what went wrong, assist with the investigation and learn all safety lessons.

The company confirmed to Construction News that Falcon Tower Cranes Services was the first organisation 18-year-old Rhys Barker had worked for but he had had experience erecting tower cranes on other sites for the firm.

Falcon Tower Crane Services currently owns 350 cranes in its fleet.

According to accounts filed under Tower Crane Asset Management Holdings, the company had turnover of £42.3m in the year to 31 December 2015, making a pre-tax profit of £4.68m.

Its subsidiary companies listed on Companies House and registered to the same Norfolk address include Falcon Crane Hire Ltd, the company fined £750,000 for its role in the 2006 collapse of a crane that led to two fatalities.

Crane operator Jonathan Cloke, 37, died in 2006 after falling from the crane as it collapsed on Thessaly Road in Battersea. The crane fell onto a member of the public, Michael Alexa, 23, who was also killed.

Falcon Crane Hire was served with a temporary prohibition notice by the HSE in 2007 ordering it to stop operating all tower cranes in its fleet which had not been examined by an “independent competent person”.

This followed a crane collapse in Liverpool which killed father of two Zbigniew Swirzynski. No criminal charges were brought in that case.

Falcon Crane Hire Holdings Ltd changed its name in 2015 to Tower Crane Asset Management Holdings Ltd, parent company of Falcon Tower Crane Services.

In a statement to Construction News, Tower Crane Services commercial director Andy Brown said: “Falcon Crane Hire Ltd and Falcon Tower Crane Services Ltd are completely separate legal entities with different directors and shareholders.

“No director of Falcon Tower Crane Services Ltd has ever been a director of Falcon Crane Hire Ltd and vice-versa.”

According to Companies House, Barbara Ivy Brown, who is currently a director of Falcon Tower Crane Services Ltd, was secretary for Falcon Crane Hire Ltd between 9 September 1995 and 5 December 2014, when she resigned.

Construction News contacted Falcon Crane Services for comment.

The DWP has been contacted for comment. The HSE declined to comment.

Readers' comments (1)

  • What does the Notification actually mean / achieved when the Regs were in place...
    Could never understand why there was separate piece of legislation in the first place when Projects are notifiable to the HSE under the CDM Regs. Surely it only needs a section added to the F10 notification form for it to be Notified to the HSE.
    Having a Tower Crane on a project is not a decision that a Company makes lightly, its usually known during the Tender period; if not the are not hired 'off the shelf' and require several weeks to procure, therefore sufficient time to Notify if its a change.
    Fully support an amendment to the 'electronic F10 Notification form!!

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