HSE's Crane Register May Cover Construction Only

The agency is asking for comments by Oct. 9 on the proposed register, which would be in effect next year and require employers to submit information to HSE. About 1,000 tower cranes are in use at any one time, the agency estimates.

Oct. 9 is the deadline for comments on a plan by Britain's Health and Safety Executive to create a national register of tower cranes, which would require employers who use tower cranes that are assembled on construction sites to send information about those machines to HSE. The agency's cost estimates assume 1,000 tower cranes are in use at any one time, and each must be inspected and registered at least twice a year. HSE expects the numbers will rise to 1,300 cranes in use and 2,600 registrations after 2010, when construction activity recovers.

Since 2000, eight deaths have occurred in high-profile UK crane failures, which prompted the Work and Pensions Select Committee to call on HSE to set up the register. HSE proposes that the register apply only to construction cranes, but it is asking stakeholders to comment on what types of cranes should be covered -- cranes on construction sites only or also those in other locations, such as shipyards and factories. HSE's questionnaire also asks what information should be collected for the register and the mechanism for submitting it; and it asks about subsequent access to that information by interested parties.

The register is meant to reduce the likelihood of low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents; HSE says its broad aims are to improve the control and management of risks in the use of tower cranes, reassure workers and the public about the control and management of such risks, and provide better intelligence to HSE about the use of tower cranes to inform any enforcement action it takes.

Of course, registering construction cranes (called self-erecting cranes in the proposal) is challenging because of a complication cited in the questionnaire: "Self-erecting tower cranes are often on site for a short time – often a matter of days or weeks rather than the months and years that conventional cranes remain on site. If they were to be included in the Register, they may well have been removed from the site by the time their erection has been registered. The Register would therefore provide information which would be out-of-date as soon as it was registered and would be of little use to HSE or anyone seeking reassurance about their safety.

"On the other hand, a reason for including both self-erecting and conventional cranes is that some stakeholders would see both types as 'tower cranes' and might want reassurance as to their safety in both cases."

Explaining why the regulation should be limited to construction tower cranes, the agency says:

  • based on accident history the risk profile is greatest in construction;
  • most of the cranes used outside construction sites are permanently in place in workplaces such as docks and storage yards. The use of such cranes clearly involves risk to safety and they are subject to the controls in LOLER [Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations]. But the risks do not generally include those associated with erection and dismantling and operation on confined sites which affect passing members of the public or local residents;
  • although tower cranes are used for other activities (such as bungee-jumping), the number used for such activities is very low and does not warrant imposing further requirements on top of those in LOLER to which they are already subject;
  • including other sites than construction may draw in other types of crane which are superficially similar to tower cranes but do not pose the same risks or attract the same degree of public concern. For example, slewing jib cranes -- very large examples of which are found in shipyards and small examples inside factory workshops.

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