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Collapse prompts fresh fears

The crane industry is urging site workers to report any incidents and near misses with cranes as it tries to address mounting public worries following another tower crane collapse.

Concern is also growing over the lack of information from the Health and Safety Executive. It has emerged that the families of the men killed in the Battersea crane collapse in September 2006 will not get a report on the accident until April at the earliest because further tests need to be carried out.

John Batey of the United Crane Operators Association urged sites to confidentially report any incident to UCOA, however minor.

Mr Batey said: “People are understandably afraid to speak but we need to see whether there is anything fundamentally wrong with site practice.

“We are already seeing at least one incident reported to us a week.”

Last week’s collapse of a -Raimondi LR60 luffing crane jib at Forest Hill, south London, was the sixth major tower crane accident in 18 months.

The HSE is investigating the collapse of the crane owned by Kent-based contractor Deco, which occurred during lifting operations, and is preparing to send the crane for examination at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton.

Investigations will focus on site operating conditions, such as wind, and the state of the crane. The latter is believed to be 19 years old and has been sold at least twice since being owned by Falcon Crane Hire.

The Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group called for more resources from the HSE during a demonstration outside its head office in central London .

Liliana Alexa, secretary of the group and mother of one of last September’s victims, said: “The crane industry claim to be doing all they can and the HSE tell us they are making the issue a priority but still cranes keep coming down.”

Construction union Ucatt is calling for a swift inquiry into the Forest Hill accident in order to learn lessons quickly.

Analysis: It’s time for a long overdue inquiry

Andrew Gaved

The sixth major incident with tower cranes in an 18-month period should surely prompt some sort of major inquiry to reassure both those who work on them and the public below.

The Strategic Forum is doing admirable work but when you read of parents threatening to take their kids out of school rather than have it oversailed by an aged tower crane, it is clear something even more high-profile needs to be done to restore confidence.

Questions which need answering include: has the current glut of construction activity encouraged contractors to cut corners on crane safety?

The one change that is surely essential is for the Government to divert greater funding to create a more proactive Health and Safety Executive.

Perhaps, then, people will no longer have to wait two years to find out why their loved ones were killed by collapsing cranes.