Authority carrying out random crane inspections
The Health and Safety Authority said today that it is carrying out random inspections of cranes and their documentation, and operations will be stopped immediately if any cranes or their base are unsafe or not covered proper documentation.
In a statement the authority did not refer to two recent fatalities caused during crane operations, but it stressed that the setting up and operation of all lifting equipment (including cranes) is covered by a number of specific provisions in the Work Equipment (Minimum Safety and Health Requirements) Regulations.
The regulations require employers to ensure that where the safety of work equipment depends on the installation conditions, such equipment shall be subject to an initial inspection (after installation, and before first being put into service) and a subsequent inspection after assembly at a new site or in a new location by competent persons, so as to ensure that the equipment has been installed correctly and is operating properly.
Cranes have to be thoroughly examined by a competent person and a certificate of the test and examination specifying the safe working load or loads of the machine and signed by the person making the test has to be kept available for inspection.
The base of the tower crane has to be certified by a competent person so as to ascertain that it can withstand the weight of the crane and the maximum load it can lift.
For mobile cranes, the outriggers should be fully extended on stable ground, with the base plates of the correct material and dimensions.
The employer must also ensure that the crane is regularly maintained and repairs are carried out by competent persons and that the safety features are not tampered with.
The crane operator must be able to read and interpret the load charts so that the crane is not overloaded.
The employer must ensure that the safety switches and alarms are fully functional and a risk assessment of the lifting operations is carried out.
No persons may be lifted by a crane unless the crane is designed for this purpose and a suitable cage, certified by a competent person, is used.
Cranes should not be operated in very strong winds and the loads have to be attached to the hook in a safe manner and well balanced. Passing with loads over persons and third party property should be avoided.
A safe passage for pedestrians should be established and clearly indicated in cases where the crane is erected on the road. If the operator cannot see the whole lifting operation there should be a signal person to guide him.
Extreme caution should be taken when two or more cranes operate with overlapping radii.
The authority said a very important aspect in the operation of tower cranes is the re-reeving operation whereby the operator changes the wire rope configuration from two fall to four fall. When this is done automatically by engaging the pulley mechanism (upper block) into the guide in the trolley using the remote control, the operator has to make sure that the mechanism is fully engaged and locked in place. This is of vital importance because if the upper block is not locked in place it may disengage and become loose without notice. This will result in the upper block falling freely onto the hook block.
If this happens, it is possible that the impact of the two blocks may cut the wire rope with the consequence that the blocks and any suspended load would be released.
The OHSA said that similar accidents have occurred in other countries.
To reduce the chances of this situation occurring, it said that it is highly advisable that, where possible, the re-reeving operation is carried out by the operator in the crane's cabin and the trolley fully retracted. Thus the operator could visually verify, at close range, that the upper block is locked in place before proceeding to the lifting operation.