Although health and safety is essential in all areas of construction, the recent spate of tower crane accidents has put the spotlight on tower crane safety.

Tower cranes are the most visible piece of equipment on construction sites and it is critical that they are installed, maintained and operated by competent personnel as failure can, and has, lead to major incidents. In response, the industry has been taking steps towards improving the safety of the sector by putting measures in place to reduce the risks that lead to accidents.

The National Construction College, for example, has been working closely with the Construction Plant Association’s (CPA) Tower Crane Interest Group and Strategic Forum, along with other industry partners to look at ways in which we can help the tower crane sector implement best practice. One of the initiatives we have been involved in is developing a comprehensive best practice guide to the safe use and maintenance of tower cranes.

Key areas have been identified that will help improve the safety of the sector including the importance of undertaking detailed planning and risk assessments, ensuring robust and thorough examinations and maintenance regimes are in place and that more site inspections are undertaken. It is often not just one error or faulty piece of equipment that leads to an accident – it is more often a chain of events that lead up to the critical moment that a serious accident occurs. It is then key that the working conditions and communications of operators on-site require continual assessment to develop improvement, and that the extent of each individual’s competence must be measured, with a particular focus on training if competence is to be fully maintained.

There are a range of courses for tower crane operators, however, the need for industry recognised training specifically for the installation and maintenance of tower cranes was identified by the Tower Crane Interest Group. In response, we have been working with key industry members to develop two new courses, which have been designed to help those working in the sector examine and maintain tower cranes in the safest possible way.

The ‘Introduction to the Thorough Examination of Tower Cranes’ and ‘Introduction to the Management of the Thorough Examination of Tower Cranes’ have been designed to ensure that those managing and undertaking tower crane examinations are aware of current legislation and their responsibilities within this, as well providing them with the right skills for best practice approach when it comes to maintaining tower cranes.

The ‘Introduction to the Management of the Thorough Examination of Tower Cranes’ is a two day course and offers foundation training to those managing the examination of tower cranes, as well as other relevant construction plant. Delegates will be provided with training on the role of a competent person, the legal framework for the Health and Safety Regulations, as well as understanding all the information contained in the ‘Thorough Examination of Tower Cranes’ report. Time will also be spent specifically looking at the management role and an introduction to the accreditations available.

Although it is vital to provide those working with tower cranes with the right training, based on the specific needs outlined by those experts working in this sector, the industry, more generally, still has a major responsibility to ensure that health and safety is the first consideration of any task. By logging and eliminating all on-site risks, we decrease the chances of accidents, and together we can strive to work in a fully qualified, safer industry.