A 3,000-kilogram load of concrete descends from a tower crane into a busy intersection during rush hour. A mobile crane graces an overhead power line, electrocuting the crane operator. A tower crane tips over – and crushes a worker. These catastrophic events could happen at any construction site that fails to properly address hazards, according to workplace health and safety experts
To address these concerns, the Ontario government will focus on crane-related hazards this summer in an inspection blitz of tower and mobile cranes at construction sites. In July and August, a team of more than 25 Ministry of Labour inspectors will visit such sites that use cranes to check for hazards that can endanger workers.
“The problem is that as tower cranes age, they are often exposed to the elements and nasty weather. This exposure means regular maintenance as required by the manufacturer is crucial” said Guy Taillon a ministry Provincial Specialist with the construction program.
“The cranes are often used for extended periods of time, making them vulnerable to stress, fatigue and breakdown. If cranes aren’t maintained, parts break that aren’t being replaced. And the older they get, the worse the problem becomes. They become hazards to workers – and the public.”
Between 2007 and 2011, one worker died and seven workers were seriously injured in tower and mobile crane incidents at construction sites across Ontario. The incidents resulted from incidents such as a tower crane striking scaffolding that caused a worker to fall. In another instance, a worker was struck by a piece of material that was being hoisted.
In the summer blitz, inspectors will focus on safe access and fall prevention, proximity to overhead power lines, maintenance and operating testing records, and various other issues, the ministry said. The inspectors are trained to climb each tower crane that they inspect.
Inspectors will take enforcement action as appropriate, says Taillon, for any contraventions found under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.
The ministry can take a range of steps if violations are found, from issuing orders to laying charges. For each conviction, a corporation faces up to $500,000. Individuals face up to $25,000 or imprisonment of up to a year, or both.
“Construction projects, including those with tower cranes, are busy workplaces where the conditions may shift constantly. It’s imperative that supervisors and workers pay close attention to what’s going on. It may mean the difference between life and death,” said Taillon.
More information about construction safety – including tower cranes – can be found at www.Ontario.ca/ConstructionSafety