Safety campaigners have condemned the scrapping of regulations introduced two years ago to monitor the use of tower cranes on construction sites.
The Notification of Conventional Tower Crane Regulations 2010 were introduced in March 2010 following a series of tower crane accidents, starting in 2000, in which eight people were killed and several more seriously injured.
The regulations emerged after a House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee called on the Health and Safety Executive to bring forward proposals to improve the safe use of tower cranes through the introduction of a tower crane register.
The regulations required employers with primary responsibility for the safety of cranes to provide the HSE with details of every tower crane on their sites, including the name and address of the crane owner, the site address, and sufficient information to identify the crane and the date of its last thorough examination.
This information was recorded on the Tower Crane Register, an online HSE database.
Recommendation to scrap the regulations
The decision to scrap the regulations was made on the recommendation of Professor Ragnar Löfstedt of the Centre for Risk Management at King’s College, London, who was commissioned by the government in 2011 to identify ways of reducing the burden of unnecessary regulation on business.
The Notification of Tower Cranes Regulations and its Register were among 14 legislative measures that Prof Lofstedt reported were either redundant or overtaken by other regulations.
Besides the tower cranes regulations, the list also included the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations, which were said to duplicate the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations.
Both the tower crane and hard-hat regulations were therefore withdrawn as of 6 April 2013.
According to Construction Plant-hire Association crane safety consultant Tim Watson, scrapping the regulations will not compromise safety.
“I feel it’s a logical move,” he says. “All the requirements for thorough examination and safety inspections are provided in Loler [Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998] and awareness of safe crane erection has improved enormously thanks to the industry’s own Safe Crane Campaign.”
However, Construction Safety Campaign national secretary Tony O’Brien branded the decision to scrap the regulations short-sighted.
“The register provided evidence that employers were following the existing rules and regulations about the use of cranes, so why scrap it?” he says.
“The HSE and ministers have ignored the views of the construction industry and all those with an interest in health and safety. Over 30 MPs signed up against scrapping it; even the employer’s organisations were against it.”
He added: “These regulations were only in force for a year and weren’t given a chance to bed in. We don’t want regulation for the sake of it, but in the end this is about saving lives.”