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WorkSafeBC hosts Tower Crane Industry Safety Conference

March 20, 2018  By  Andrew Snook

Remi Coupal of Coupal Cranes tries his hand at some anti-collision technology courtesy of Paul Roussel, manager for Opticrane, during WorkSafeBC’s Tower Crane Industry Safety Conference in Richmond, B.C.

March 20, 2018 – For the first time in more than a decade, tower crane professionals across British Columbia came together for the Tower Crane Industry Safety Conference, hosted by WorkSafeBC at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond, B.C. on March 15, 2018.

Jaret Swanson, manger of WorkSafeBC, kicked off the conference by welcoming more than 150 crane professionals that travelled to Richmond to attend a variety of sessions related to tower crane safety.

Dan Strand, director at WorkSafeBC, then offered his welcome remarks and discussed the importance of industry coming together for events like this one.

“It’s been 12 years since we’ve held a conference like this,” he said, adding that much has changed in the tower crane industry since the last conference. “But what hasn’t changed is a need to keep people safe.”


Strand told the crowd that everyone involved in the industry need to work together to address tower crane safety issues to find solutions that ensure that everyone goes home safely. He added that, on average, every month in B.C. there’s a near miss reported or an actual incident.

“We’ve had 12 serious incidents in the past 12 months,” he told the crowd. “Behind these statistics are people, people that are at risk.”

WorkSafeBC Crane Safety Initiative
Doug Younger, occupational safety officer for WorkSafeBC, offered an overview of the 2018-2020 WorkSafeBC Crane Industry Initiative.

The agency’s tower crane strategy is “to identify and eliminate specific tower crane hazards and unsafe work practices that have the potential to cause serious injury, death, or catastrophic equipment failure.”

Younger told the crowd that the large number of serious incidents related to safe operation of tower cranes is what spurred WorkSafeBC’s focus on tower cranes.

In addition to the 12 tower crane incidents that were reported in 2017-18 in B.C., there have been 250 tower crane incidents reported between 2008 and 2017. The majority of the incidents were caused by crane and hoist equipment failures; contact with overhead conductors, tower cranes and concrete pumps; and workers being struck by falling loads or by rigging and other objects.

Younger said that the true number of incidents is most likely more than this, since WorkSafeBC may not hear about all incidents, and its officers may not actually document every single incident that takes place.

All of these serious incidents had the potential for serious work injury or death, and all of them were avoidable, Younger told the crowd. He added that he is amazed at how many close calls and near misses he has seen over the years; and that there have been no fatalities stemming from these incidents over the past 10 years.

“This industry cannot rely on luck,” Younger said. “It’s unbelievable how nobody got seriously hurt [in these incidents]… we need to take a serious look and improve our safety stats, we need to improve our record.”

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the incidents in B.C. have taken place in the Vancouver area, where most of the lifting work is taking place. Out of the 250 incidents from 2008 to 2017, 126 occurred in Vancouver West and 14 occurred in Vancouver East. Other cities in B.C. where a significant number of incidents have taken place include Surrey (15); Victoria (14); Kelowna (13); and Courtenay (8).

Of the 12 incidents that were reported in the past 12 months, 10 took place in the Lower Mainland, with the others happening on Vancouver Island. Eleven of the 12 incidents were close calls. One reported incident resulted in a worker being injured with fractured vertebra when they fell backwards three feet and landed on a rock adjacent to a footing excavation, while being involved in a footing pour, positioning a loaded bucket of concrete rigged from a tower crane.

Younger discussed WorkSafeBC’s various tower crane initiatives, which include:
-Crane operator certification changes and updates;
-Pre-erection and annual inspection requirements to the CSA standard;
-Rigging standard and rigger qualification;
-Equipment zoning (slew-limiting devices); and
-Below-the-hook lifting device design and documentation.

Crane operator certification
Fraser Cocks, executive director for the BC Association for Crane Safety, offered an update on the association’s activities and discussed the crane operator certification scheme.

Cocks said there are currently a total of 364 B.C. certified tower crane operators in the province (235 active full scope, and 129 active provisional); with an additional 86 certified crane operators working in B.C. with recognized credentials from other provinces. Albertans make up the bulk of those operators, accounting for 70 of the 86 operators.

Cocks told the crowd that there is a need to watch out for false credentials, and that an operator having the necessary credentials is only one step for ensuring safe operations.

“You, as employers, are responsible for making sure your operators are qualified,” he told the crowd, adding that companies’ need to enforce that their operators are properly trained and fit to operate the cranes safely, including not arriving to work under the influence of anything that would inhibit their abilities to operate cranes safely.

Cocks discussed the challenges that come with every province having its own types of certifications, and that work is currently being done at the federal level to try and align credentials for operators across the country.

CSA Z 248 and Z 150 updates
Unirope president Knut Buschmann presented on wire rope inspection and safe use during the conference, and discussed updates and noteworthy changes regarding the Z 248 Tower Cranes and Z 150 Mobile Cranes CSA standards:

Z 248 Tower Cranes
-Non-rotating ropes must meet ASTM 1023, Class I (Class 35 x 7)
-Temperature rating +82C to -40C (Consult rope manufacturer if higher or lower)

Z 248 Tower and Z 150 Mobile Cranes
-In the absence of any Canadian or U.S. (ASTM) safety standard on wire rope fittings now referred for guidance by EN 13411. (Note: EN fitting designs shall withstand a 75,000 cycle test. But not required in Canada). Hence, all spelter, swaged and loop back terminations need to be proof tested. (Note: A one-time proof test is no guarantee for continuous performance).

Red Seal certification
Kristin Leversage, program development officer with the Industry Training Authority (ITA), offered attendees an update on the new requirements of the Red Seal program. The Red Seal Certification Program for tower crane operators was launched on Dec. 1, 2017. The ITA is now issuing Red Seal endorsements for tower crane operators.

Red Seal program completion requirements include:
-Minimum of 3,000 hours;
-Three written exams: Level 1, Level 2 and Interprovincial Red Seal exam; and
-A practical assessment (no change).

For trade workers who are already certified, she said that all ITA certifications are still valid and no action is required. However, if a certified trade worker wants to obtain a Red Seal endorsement on their Certificate of Qualification, they can do so by passing the Interprovincial Red Seal exam.

THARRP Program
Cathy Lange, consultant for the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA), offered an overview of the Technical High Angle Rope Rescue Program (THARRP).

The THARRP program prepares fire department personnel in technical rope and tower crane rescue procedures for workers in distress working at heights. The program was created in 1991 by the Greater Vancouver Regional District Fire Chiefs, is administered by the BCCSA, and overseen by the Technical High Angle Rope Rescue Steering Committee. The committee is comprised of representatives from the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, BC Fire Chiefs’ Association, participating employers, labour, BCCSA and WorkSafeBC.

New technologies on display
New products for improving safety were also on display at the conference, including zoning devices and anti-collision technologies and cameras.

Paul Roussel, manager for Opticrane, discussed some of the latest innovations for improving safety operations for tower crane operations.

Roussel discussed how zoning devices and anti-collision (AC) devices are able to warn operators about hazards and prevent encroachment on prohibited areas, when partially or fully integrated. All cranes manufactured in Europe after 2006 have to be able accept any manufacturer’s AC technologies. Although AC systems have been around for 20 years, Roussel said they are still new to some people in the industry, and that there is a new layer we can add to these anti-collision systems.

“They all have software that can be run in conjunction with these systems and can send you alerts,” Roussel explained. “You now can have a system that tells you how much mileage a crane is doing in a day for preventative maintenance, how many alerts you get in a day, and how often two tower cranes may be ‘fighting’ for the same lifts… with data logging monitoring system you can basically log anything.”

Companies can then use this data for a variety of applications, in addition to things like preventative maintenance and alerts, such as defending itself against accusations of breaching limits of approach, since the data can record how the tower crane has been operating.

“Why should data be tracked? We can prevent incidents, we can demonstrate our due diligence, ensure our return on investment… we can re-think the way we do things,” Roussel told the crowd, adding that he believes the industry is moving in the right direction, be that there is much more that can be done to improve the safety of tower crane operations through adopting innovative technologies. “Technology is there is help us… it can make our lives a lot easier.”

Preventative maintenance
Bigfoot Crane Company’s Ryan Burton discussed tower crane preventative maintenance best practices and the pros and cons of having a preventive maintenance program.

“The primary goal of preventative maintenance is to prevent the failures of equipment before they occur,” he told the crowd. “There are lots of advantages of preventive maintenance.”

Advantages mentioned included:
-It is cost effective in many capital intensive environments;
-Provides flexibility for periodic adjustment of maintenance tasks;
-Increases the life cycle of components;
-Reduces equipment failures and downtime costs; and
-Is said to result in 12 per cent to 18 per cent cost savings over a reactive maintenance program.

That said, there are challenges to running preventative maintenance programs, Burton told the crowd.

He said the disadvantages include the program not eliminating catastrophic failures (although it does help prevent them) and that it these types of maintenance programs are always more labour intensive. They also require maintenance management being willing to stock more parts and potentially replace parts that are still in good operating condition.

Additional presentations that took place during the conference included limits of approach to overhead electrical contractors; meetings CSA standards when making modifications to tower cranes; tower crane inspections and requirements for B.C.; and a Canadian standards review and discussion by the SCC, CSA, and CSA Standards committee members.

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