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HSE's tower cranes crackdown following inquest

The Health and Safety Executive has begun a sweeping review of the tower crane industry, giving firms until the end of the month to carry out checks on their machines.

In a letter sent out last week, the body has demanded suppliers and hirers completely reassess their equipment, operating systems and procedures.

The move has come in the wake of last month’s inquest into the Liverpool crane collapse in which one man was killed last year when a counterweight fell onto him below.

The HSE now wants the 18 firms it has singled out to ask manufacturers whether the mechanisms that failed on the Liverpool luffing jib affect their machines - and if so ensure the problems are remedied.

It wants companies to include the responses received from manufacturers and what actions the company will be taking to minimise the possibility of a similar incident.

HSE head of operations for construction in the North-west Mike Cross said some companies could be the subject of enforcement action. He said: “The HSE will be checking to ensure replies are received and we will follow-up in all cases where they are not received.

“We will be checking the replies to see if the action proposed aligns with the findings of the suppliers’ inquiries. Until we receive the replies it is too early to say whether any enforcement action is required.”

The HSE also wants the 18 firms to provide information on their findings to their own staff and those who operate or hire their cranes.
Mr Cross added: “We had a good idea of what had happened and it is right that we go now to industry to get this work taken forward.”

A HSE spokeswoman said similar actions were taken from time to time across all industries if the regulator deemed it necessary.

She said two safety alerts had been sent out following other fatal crane accidents, including 2006’s tragedy at Battersea in south London, but only one required action and simply asked firms to ensure correct procedures were being taken when operating cranes.

Analysis: Liverpool highlighted need for change

By John Batey

We had already written to the Strategic Forum’s tower crane group about our concerns regarding luffing jibs coming over backwards.

There are some simple things that can be done that have never been taken on board.

We have had other cases of ballasts coming out but Liverpool really highlighted it.

The Strategic Forum has been up and running for a year now and we have all been able to sit around a table and talk about our problems.
In the past, crane drivers have been reluctant to bring anything up in case they are seen as whistleblowers.

I am sure the crane companies are going to turn around and say things are fine. But with the Strategic Forum I am hopeful. I know the guys leading it are really determined to get these changes made. This is a step forward.

John Batey is chairman of the United Crane Operators’ Association

To download the full HSE report into the Liverpool crane collapse, click on the resource box on the right hand side of the page