In the past four months accidents involving tower cranes have left three people dead, including a member of the public. To prevent further fatalities Building is calling for rigorous checks, better supervision and public accountability for these potentially dangerous pieces of equipment.

What we want: 1

An urgent HSE blitz on cranes

Building is calling on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to carry out an urgent “site blitz” on cranes. The HSE periodically carries out blitzes on areas of work that give cause for concern, involving widespread site visits focusing on specific pieces of equipment. Contractors are warned before blitzes but not told when they will happen. The HSE is in the middle of a three-year investigation into crane safety, which involves checking cranes when erected, dismantled and during use, but Building believes the recent spate of accidents necessitates an immediate programme of random checks on site.

Battersea 26.09.06: Two dead.

What we want: 2

An annual MOT on cranes over 10 years old

Cranes are constantly being dismantled and moved, which can place a huge strain on them. The crane in the Battersea collapse was 34 years old; anecdotal evidence suggests many others have been operational for 20 to 30 years. Experts claim that properly maintained cranes should be safe for 10 years, with heavy-duty tower cranes continuing for 20. However, to ensure the utmost safety, Building is calling for all cranes over 10 years old to undergo an MOT every year. This should be carried out by independent qualified engineers when the crane is assembled, rather than the predominantly company-led checks that happen today. Although checks must be made every 12 months, these are not as thorough as an MOT, and can be carried out by anyone deemed competent, including a member of the company involved in erecting the crane.

Liverpool 15.01.07: One dead.

What we want: 3

A public register of the checks carried out on cranes

The safety of cranes has become a huge public concern, with many brownfield developments situated next to existing housing, schools and public spaces. To reassure the public and raise accountability, Building wants records of the checks carried out on individual cranes to be available to the public. This could be achieved by passing records to a local MP or council leader.

It should not involve much increase in bureaucracy as records should be kept anyway – a rule sometimes ignored, meaning checks go incomplete or undocumented.

Canary Wharf 21.05.00: Three Dead.

Our backers

Alan Ritchie, general secretary, Ucatt
I am pleased my union is backing the campaign. Clearly, there are a number of problems relating to tower cranes that have been highlighted by the recent tragedies in London and Liverpool. It is my union’s firm intent to press the government for tighter controls over the use of tower cranes, putting the safety of the operatives, the workers on the ground and the public first.

Martin Linton MP for Battersea
I very much welcome Building magazine’s campaign on crane safety after the tragic accident in Battersea. I’m convinced it’s important to raise the safety requirements for cranes on building sites, especially now that so many are in densely populated areas overlooking residential property. Crane accidents are not common, but they are far more common than I expected. And they are all avoidable.

Mike Peasland, managing director, Balfour Beatty
I definitely support Building’s campaign. We need to do something to improve the quality of certification and verification of crane conditions and operation. An MOT on the crane itself is a good idea.

Bob Blackman, national officer, T&G
I am pleased to back the campaign. It is obvious there are serious problems and we believe these can be addressed only by the HSE carrying out a blitz on sites and issuing prohibition notices, before there’s another accident.

Further support

John Batey, chairman, United Crane Operators Association
I agree with this campaign. I don’t want to see a blanket ban, but an MOT every year after they’re 10 years old would ensure a safer working environment

Roger Bibbings, occupational safety adviser, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
We certainly give this campaign our support. We favour a regime of thorough testing on cranes and their parts. As far as we are concerned, the safety of the public is a top priority.

Stephen Ratcliffe, chief executive, Construction Confederation
This campaign rightly highlights the challenges surrounding crane operation and the need to ensure that it is carried out as safely as possible. It is imperative that the industry works together to tackle this.

John McDonough, chief executive, Carillion
Anything that helps to increase safety we support so Carillion gives the campaign its backing.

Murray Coleman, chief executive, Bovis Lend Lease UK
At Bovis Lend Lease we are committed to eliminating worker injury and creating a safe work environment. We fully support the Safer Skyline campaign and are enthusiastic to get behind initiatives that help make our industry safer.

It’s not just here
A crane collapse in Seattle last November that killed one man and damaged several buildings has sparked a safety review in the US. Last month a crane safety conference was called by the Department of Labour and Industries, with proposed measures including certification of operators and the machines themselves.