After a series of fatal accidents Building is launching the Safer Skyline campaign, calling for rigorous checks on crane conditions

Last year’s fatal Battersea collapse put safety on the national agenda

This week Building launches a Safer Skyline campaign, calling for urgent action against fatal tower crane accidents in the wake of a crane collapse on a building site in Liverpool on Monday.

The latest fatality occurred when a 120ft crane collapsed on a David McLean housing development in Liverpool at 2.45pm. In the incident at Elysian Fields, a luxury flats development in the city centre by client Iliad, a site worker was killed and the crane driver seriously injured.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is currently investigating the incident, which is the third in the past six months, of which two have resulted in the deaths of site workers or members of the public.

At the end of September a member of the public and the crane operator were killed at a Barratt site in Battersea, south-west London.

The second was a collapse at a Sir Robert McAlpine site in the City of London in October where nobody was killed.

Bob Blackman, the national secretary for construction at the T&G, said the issue needed to be addressed with urgency.

He said: “If nothing is done, with all the brownfield development under way, one day we’ll find crane accidents on housing sites, next to schools or shopping centres.”

As a result of the latest incident, Building is calling for: n An urgent HSE blitz on all cranes in the UK. This would include pre-emptive checks on cranes to ensure safety regulations are being followed and that everyone involved has proper training n Scrutiny of the age and condition of cranes on site and a ban on the use of older cranes n A debate over the need for a public register of checks, to reassure the public.

The HSE already carries out occasional blitzes. Building wants these to take place on cranes now.

Blackman said: “The HSE has got to accept that we do have a problem. They have to carry out random inspections and provide more instructions on what firms need to be aware of to ensure the safe use of cranes.”

If nothing is done we’ll find accidents on housing sites,
next to schools or shopping centres bob blackman, t&G

A statement from the HSE on the Liverpool collapse said: “HSE inspectors attended the site immediately upon being notified on the same day. A joint investigation into the incident is now ongoing, being led by the Merseyside police.”

It is part of a wider three-year HSE investigation into crane safety, which started in 2005. It involves inspectors going in to see crane rental companies and checking cranes when erected, dismantled and during use. Last week an HSE inspector attended the Construction Plant Hire Association’s annual open meeting to talk through safety issues.

Building is also calling for better site supervision, so that crane co-ordinators on site have proper knowledge of tower cranes and that banksmen, who direct crane operation from the ground, are properly trained.

Shelley Atkinson-Frost, director of Health and Safety at the Construction Confederation, said one of the most important issues was that all crane operations must be carried out by competent people.

She said: “The competent person should also carry out pre-use checks at the start of each shift to ensure the crane has not suffered damage and is safe to use, taking into consideration environmental factors such as high winds.”

Some cranes in use in the UK are 20 to 30 years old. Building is calling for a scrap-by date on cranes – which does not exist at the moment – to ensure that old models are taken out of circulation.

Building is also calling for a debate on the issue of whether a public register of checks should be introduced, whereby the public is able to access records detailing the safety checks that have been made on cranes operating in an area, to encourage accountability and rigorous checks.

John Spanswick, chairman of Bovis Lend Lease and a campaigner for health and safety, said he was appalled at the news from Liverpool. He added that immediate action was needed and that Bovis was addressing the issue.

He said: “After the Battersea collapse, we immediately made contact with all our crane suppliers and had comprehensive discussions.”

He added that Bovis is continuing to meet more frequently with its crane suppliers as a result of the recent incidents, none of which has occurred on a Bovis site.