Safety remains firmly on the agenda this month. Little could I guess when writing on the subject of safety in this column last month that within weeks two quite separate crane safety issues would be under the spotlight, and in both cases the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is taking centre stage.

Ever since a fatal accident in London three years ago, when a tower crane collapsed while self-climbing, the HSE has been closely studying the mechanism of external climbing frames. It has now released a comprehensive discussion paper outlining the risks faced by users of this equipment. Anyone who has tower cranes should make it their business to read it. The HSE does NOT say we should stop using climbing frames, but it does spell out the dangers. See our special report on pp23-25 for details. I have already heard comment to the effect of: ‘There’s no problem as long as you know what you are doing.’ My view is that if there is a practical way of reducing the risks involved, by improving either design, education or planning, we should find it, and embrace it.

The second issue is knuckle boom truck loader crane safety. The HSE caused a stir in August 2001 when it said that all truck loaders must be fitted with stabiliser interlocks (or equivalent) to prevent use of the crane without stabiliser legs being properly deployed. Since making that statement it has consulted the industry. The industry now agrees on the need for interlocks and is working on developing a practical solution, and the HSE has learned that such a development will take a couple of years to introduce. The result is that the European standard EN 12999 is likely to be revised – a welcome outcome.

The next challenge for the knuckle boom sector is to ensure that proper locks are fitted when stowing legs away, so that the legs cannot fly out when the truck is moving. People are being killed in this way. An alarm should sound in the drivers cab if the vehicle starts to move off without legs being properly locked away. Technically, this is an altogether simpler matter than ‘out and down’ stabiliser interlocks and it deserves just as much attention. The standards committee must find time to address this issue too.