The collapse and resulting tragedy which occurred on Wednesday in Bow, London has been well reported. Calls for an urgent and hopefully prompt enquiry have been voiced by many. It is hoped that the call will be heeded so that the cause of the accident can be found and precautions taken to prevent any further incident of this nature. The crane was a Wolffkran model and the company have published this notice on their website:
On Wednesday, July 8th, at 14:40 BST, a WOLFF tower crane belonging to WOLFFKRAN Ltd. collapsed on a construction site in Bow, East London. According to the authorities, a resident of the adjacent houses that were struck by the jib of the crane died, and four other people were injured, two of whom are WOLFFKRAN employees. Both are in hospital, with one seriously injured and the other scheduled to be released today.
The WOLFFKRAN management and staff are deeply upset by this tragedy and express their heartfelt condolences to the family of the woman that died in the incident. Our thoughts are with all those affected, our own staff, and their families, and we thank the rescue teams for their work on site. Employees of WOLFFKRAN Ltd. have been on site since yesterday supporting the responsible authorities in their investigations and preparations to remove the crane from the site.
The affected crane is a WOLFF luffing jib crane of type WOLFF 355 B, which is one of WOLFFKRAN’s most tried and tested cranes, reliable in operation worldwide, and currently in operation on 18 sites across the UK. The crane on the construction site in Bow was only 10 years old and was fully erected on a 22 meter tower the day before the incident.
WOLFFKRAN Ltd. is a subsidiary of the globally active crane manufacturer WOLFFKRAN with a heritage of more than 150 years in crane technology. WOLFFKRAN Ltd. has been providing tower crane services to the UK construction industry for 45 years. It operates out of Sheffield and employs some 300 people.
Sadly crane accidents are more frequent than is perhaps realised. Reports from around the globe demonstrate this and whilst some are clearly a result of operator failings, when due to the mechanical similarity, any technical failings would be relevant as alerts for possible problems that could arise in systems used here in the UK. Here are a few incidents from recent years.
October 2019, St Petersburg, Russia
A runaway All Terrain crane almost ended up in the Fontanka River in St Petersburg, Russia. The crane driver had only left the vehicle – a two axle Terex PPM AC40/2L – for a couple of seconds to readjust a rear view mirror.
January 2019 Luton, UK
A 70 ton Sennebogen 673E telescopic crawler crane tipped onto its counterweight, thought to be the third case of a telescopic crawler overturning in this way in the UK in the past two months. This particular incident is said to have occurred on a job site alongside Luton Airport.
January 2019, Yueyan Hunan Province, China
A tower crane collapsed while it was being dismantled in the city of Yueyang, in the Northeastern corner of Hunan Province, China. At least four people were struck directly by the falling crane tower and jib, two of them died at the scene.
November 2018, London, UK
The jib of a Spierings mobile self erecting tower crane broke free and dropped onto the job site where it was working. Thankfully no was injured in the incident and damage was light.
November 2018, Miami, USA
A man was injured when a boom truck/platform he was using overturned in Homestead, on the south side of Miami, Florida. The man was operating the machine as a crane from the truck bed, using the lower controls when it tipped over.
November 2018, Edinburgh, Scotland
A telescopic crawler crane tipped over rearwards October 19, 2018 at a site in Edinburgh, Scotland. The crane, a 100 tonne LTR1100 owned by Hawks Hire, was working on the St James Shopping center and hotel redevelopment when it seems the operator had the tracks fully retracted, over the side.
September 2018, Melbourne, Australia
One man has died and two were injured, one very seriously, after a tower crane dropped a fully loaded 53 cubic feet skip of concrete onto the men, who were working in the pour area below the crane. The incident occurred on the site of a new 12 storey apartment block.
Perhaps now would be a good time to examine the safety procedures for cranes published by the Health and Safety Executive as detailed below:
What you need to do
The law says that all lifting operations involving lifting equipment must be properly planned by a competent person; appropriately supervised; and carried out in a safe manner.
Cranes and lifting accessories such as slings must be of adequate strength, tested and subject to the required examinations and inspections.
All crane operators, and people involved in slinging loads and directing lifting operations, must be trained and competent.
There are four key aspects to the safe use of cranes:
- Planning lifting operations
- Safe systems of work
- Supervision of lifting
- Thorough examination
What you need to know
Tower and mobile cranes are used extensively on construction projects and present two principal hazards:
- Collapse of the crane – such incidents present significant potential for multiple fatal injuries, both on and off-site;
- Falling of the load – these events also present a significant potential for death and major injury.
Other incidents have involved people being struck by moving loads, cranes contacting overhead conductors and cranes colliding with each other.
Important note for crane users: The legal responsibilities for safe lifting operations are usually shared between the crane hirer and crane user.
When a crane is hired the responsibility for planning, supervising and carrying out lifting operations rests with the user unless these responsibilities are explicitly assumed by the crane hire company under a ‘contract lift’.
People who hire cranes but do not have the necessary competencies for safe planning and use will need to opt for a ‘Contract Lift’ from the crane hire company.
Planning lifting operations
All lifting operations should be planned so they are carried out safely with foreseeable risks taken into account.
The person appointed to plan the lifting operation should have adequate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the lifts being undertaken.
The plan will need to address the risks identified by a risk assessment, the resources required, procedures and the responsibilities so that any lifting operation is carried out safely.
The plan should ensure that the lifting equipment remains safe for the range of lifting operations for which the equipment might be used.
British Standard BS 7121Part 1 2006 sets out an acceptable standard for managing lifting operations using cranes on construction projects.
Safe systems of work
You must plan lifting operations carefully to ensure they are carried out safely. Your plan should result in a safe system of work which may need to be written down if it is a complex lift. This record is sometimes known as a method statement and you must ensure that everyone involved understands it.
Key elements include:
- planning – including site preparation, crane erection and dismantling;
- selection, provision and use of a suitable crane and work equipment
- including safe slinging and signalling arrangements;
- maintenance and examination of the crane and equipment;
- provision of properly trained and competent personnel;
- supervision of operations by personnel having the necessary authority;
- thorough examinations, reports and other documents;
- preventing unauthorised movement or use of the crane; and
- measures to secure safety of persons not involved in the lifting.
Supervision of lifting
The right level of supervision must be in place for lifting operations, reflecting the degree of risk and personnel involved in the particular lifting operation.
The crane supervisor should direct and supervise the lifting operation to make sure it is carried out in accordance with the method statement.
The crane supervisor should be competent and suitably trained and should have sufficient experience to carry out all relevant duties and authority to stop the lifting operation if it is judged dangerous to proceed.
There are strict legal requirements concerning the thorough examination of all cranes:
Lifting equipment must be thoroughly examined at the prescribed intervals. This is a detailed and specialised examination by a competent person.
The examination will usually be arranged by the crane hire company, although it is the responsibility of the crane user to ensure that all necessary examinations are carried out and that the required reports are in order.
Records of thorough examinations and tests must be: readily available to enforcing authorities; secure; and capable of being reproduced in written form.