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Towering Safety Issues: Maintenance of vehicles, tools and equipment represents a major safety concern



The condition and operation of tower cranes, mobile cranes and concrete pumping equipment continues to be a key concern in Ontario. The province’s Ministry of Labour has reported that a number of incidents involving cranes and concrete pumping equipment have resulted in death and serious injuries to workers in the past few years. Some of these incidents occurred when cranes overturned, contacted electrical conductors or when the cranes or the material being lifted struck or crushed workers when the load was dropped.

Between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2012, ministry inspectors conducted a blitz of hazards involving tower cranes, mobile cranes and concrete pumping equipment. And while the inspections were limited to Ontario, the takeaways are relevant to anywhere across the country.

Inspection blitzes are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.

During the blitz, inspectors focused on the following key priorities:

• Safe access and fall prevention: Inspectors checked for the required presence and adequacy of access ladders and guardrails or other access equipment. They also checked for required fall arrest equipment to protect workers who could fall from tower cranes.

• Proximity to overhead energized power lines: Inspectors checked if the crane operator maintained the minimum distance of approach from overhead energized power lines, if the voltage of such power lines was identified and if a procedure was in place to maintain the minimum distance of the crane or its load from the overhead power lines.

• Tower crane maintenance and other records: Inspectors checked for records at the construction site on the condition of tower cranes, before and after erection, including a professional engineer’s design drawings for tower crane installation. Inspectors checked that tower cranes were properly inspected prior to first use, and regularly inspected and maintained afterwards. Inspectors also reviewed logbook entries to ensure operational functions (such as limit and overload limit switches) were properly tested.

• Mobile crane maintenance and other records: Inspectors checked for records such as the crane operator log book and operator manual. Inspectors checked that cranes were inspected and maintained as required.
• Training: Inspectors checked that mobile crane operators were certified to operate a crane at a construction site or were being instructed in crane operation and accompanied by a person who had the required certification.

• Various other issues: Inspectors checked on the structural, mechanical and foundational integrity of cranes, safety systems, setup, proximity to people and safe hoisting practices.

The inspectors visited many types of workplaces, including sewer and water main construction and repair; commercial building construction; asphalt paving and roadwork on existing streets; hydro utility installation, underground and above ground; underground tunnel construction; cable installation involving various types of telephone, electrical and fibre optics; and hydroelectric and nuclear power plants construction activity.

Inspectors issued orders at a rate of 2.53 per workplace visit. During this blitz, inspectors visited 527 construction projects and issued 1,481 orders, including 149 stop work orders. The total number of visits was 608 because some of the workplaces were visited several times. Orders were issued for various violations of the OHSA and the Regulations for Construction Projects.

In general, the blitz results indicate hazards involving failure to use personal protective equipment continue to be a at concern on construction projects. Maintenance of vehicles, tools and equipment also represents a major health and safety concern. Crane-related issues (such as use of outriggers, rigging methods and equipment records) represent areas where continued vigilance is also required. There is a need for a better understanding of the regulatory requirements for constructors and employers on construction projects, such as ensuring that the necessary controls for occupational health and safety are developed and implemented at construction projects.

Employers should focus on raising workplace parties’ awareness of key health and safety hazards involving traffic on construction sites and during roadwork projects and thereby promoting improved health and safety for workers on construction sites with traffic and road work projects.

A health and safety culture requires all workplace parties to be vigilant and to give appropriate attention to workplace health and safety. In other words, the workplace must have a well- functioning internal responsibility system in which all workplace parties take responsibility for their own health and safety and that of their co-workers. A strong commitment by everyone in the workplace is needed to prevent injuries and illness and to reduce risk. Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control crane-related hazards found on construction projects.

Since 2008, ministry inspectors have conducted more than 266,000 field visits, 40 inspection blitzes and issued more than 426,000 compliance orders in Ontario workplaces.