Safety watchdog warns on bolts and orders inspections as MPs sign up to early day motion

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety alert asking crane operators to inspect high-tensile bolts in masts, jibs and slew rings.

The alert, issued on Thursday, came after last week’s fatal collapse in Liverpool, and the HSE’s order that crane supplier Falcon take 180 of its rigs out of service until they had been independently inspected.

Contractors Bovis and Carillion were among the firms with work disrupted by the ban, which is thought mainly to have hit sites in northern England.

The HSE stressed that the alert would not prejudice its investigation into the collapse.

The Liverpool incident, which was the second fatal collapse of a Falcon crane in the past four months, led to the launch of Building’s Safer Skyline campaign last week. This calls for an urgent improvements in crane safety.

Since the collapse:

• Falcon Crane Hire has agreed to revise its routine checks on cranes, with independent inspections twice a year

• Stephen Williams, the HSE’s chief inspector for construction, has set up meetings with industry leaders

• In an early day motion in the House of Commons, 14 MPs have backed Building’s campaign.

Falcon claims that the inspections will be completed within two weeks, but rival crane companies are said to be inundated by enquiries from contractors concerned about the site delays.

An HSE spokesperson said: “We are conscious of the disruption but we’re sure the industry will support our action in the interests of safety.”

Martin Linton, the MP for Battersea, where a crane collapse killed two people last September, tabled the motion on Monday.

He said: “I’m convinced it’s important to raise the safety requirements for cranes, especially now so many are in densely populated areas. Crane accidents are not common, but they are far more common than I expected, and they’re avoidable.”

Louise Ellman and Mark Field, MPs for Liverpool and the City of London, where collapses recently occurred, were among those who signed the motion by Tuesday. It can still gather support as MPs have until the end of the 2006/07 parliamentary session to sign it.

Building’s campaign calls for the HSE to carry out a “site blitz” on cranes, to introduce annual MOT tests by independent engineers on cranes over 10 years old and to start a public register of crane safety checks.