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Is second hand, second rate?

Some argue that BS7121 should be free to all crane operators

If you are a crane operator and wish to own your own copy of health and safety standard BS7121, you can expect to pay upwards of £140 per section, amounting to £1,500 for the whole document.

Yet with condensed handbooks available for just £3.50 and larger companies owning reference copies readily accessible for drivers to study when necessary, do operators really need, or want, a 150-word guidance document?

United Crane Operators’ Association co-director Terry Duxbury believes so. “If everyone had more access to it, everybody would be working in harmony. I’ve started up a poll on the UCOA website. The positive response from drivers is overwhelming. Some of them have even been sneaking into company offices and printing copies off in secret.”

According to Mr Duxbury, such extreme measures reflect the frustration of operators throughout the industry.

“Crane drivers have all had their status taken away. You’re nothing more than the lever you pull. All decisions are taken away by the APs (Appointed Persons) and they all keep the information to themselves.

“I can say with conviction that 80-90 per cent of the whole crane industry is operating without knowing anything about BS7127.”

Mr Duxbury is campaigning with the Strategic Forum for Construction Tower Crane Group for the document to be made available free of change and suggests that the Government should at least fund this in part.

Managing director of Ainscough Training Services Ian Fisher questions the need for drivers to possess the entire document.

“It’s written to help the employers and they’re the only ones who need to have a copy. Operators can look at this if they want to. The CPA produces the mobile crane operators’ guide to safety which is an A5 sized, condensed version, written in operators’ language and based on the original guidance,” he says.

Mr Duxbury, however, does not believe this provision adequate: “Many drivers would like to study this at home to better themselves, and not just a watered down version.

“So many APs out there are third rate, and yet you’ve got to take it as read when they quote BS7127.”

He continues: “Some of the larger companies might have a reference copy, but drivers aren’t always at the office. How can this be good health and safety practice?”

Colin Wood of the Construction Products Association says that health and safety training levels have not been affected by drivers not possessing copies. “The parts that drivers need to know about they’ll learn in training courses.

You have to be fully aware of the document to pass the original driver exam, scoring around 80 per cent.

Also, the Government helps to promote further training within companies. Any firm with plant has to pay a levy, based on the number of men they have. This then makes its way back to the back to the firm via training provision. Drivers themselves are only charged for any shortfall.

While Mr Wood admits that there is a training shortfall with regards to crane driving, he blames a more obvious contender: “There is not so much levy around nowadays because of the downturn,” he says. “Everyone’s getting squeezed.”

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