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WorkSafeBC’s focus on crane safety continues amid recent incidents

WorkSafeBC has a crane safety initiative that aims to identify and eliminate unsafe work practices and equipment hazards, while employers must adhere to stringent regulatory requirements.

May 9, 2024  By Doug Younger

Doug Younger, a Manager of Prevention Field Services with WorkSafeBC, shares the recent highlighting of crane safety in the province.

In January and February of this year, three separate incidents occurred in Metro Vancouver involving cranes. Tragically, the third incident at the Oakridge Park construction site in Vancouver resulted in a worker fatality.

These high-profile incidents have understandably generated questions about crane safety in B.C., including what initiatives are underway to improve safety on worksites, and what the regulatory environment looks like for tower cranes.

Tower cranes in Canada

With the enormous demand for new housing units across Canada, tower cranes are becoming a more visible part of the urban landscape across the country. In B.C. alone there are currently about 350 tower cranes operating.

Tower cranes are essential pieces of equipment on construction sites, and they typically operate safely and without incident. However, tower cranes have the potential to create catastrophic risk to workers and the public. That’s why tower crane safety is a priority for WorkSafeBC.


Recent crane incidents

In each of these three incidents in Metro Vancouver — which involved different crane activities — WorkSafeBC issued stop-use and stop-work orders at the sites and all three incidents are now under investigation.

At this time, preliminary evidence suggests there are few, if any, similarities between the three incidents, or the equipment involved. However, the investigations will seek to identify the cause of the incidents, including contributing factors, so that similar incidents can be prevented from happening in the future.

These incidents also come as the 2021 Kelowna crane collapse continues to be top of mind for workers, industry, and the public in B.C. This tragic tower crane failure claimed the lives of five workers.

Crane safety

WorkSafeBC has stringent regulatory requirements for tower crane operation, as well as a dedicated crane safety initiative and inspection team that aims to identify and eliminate unsafe work practices and equipment hazards.

WorkSafeBC’s Provincial Crane Inspection Team has extensive experience and training in tower crane use. This team conducts proactive risk-based inspections across B.C. to ensure employers are effectively managing the key risks across all stages of tower crane use.

WorkSafeBC also works closely with BC Crane Safety to create resources for industry to ensure they understand tower crane erection, operation, inspection, and maintenance hazards, and how to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

Robust regulatory regime

Under the Workers Compensation Act, employers in B.C. are required to provide workers with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure they can carry out their work safely.

Employers must follow specific regulations related to cranes and hoists in B.C., specifically Part 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR).

  • Crane operators must be qualified and certifiedto operate a tower crane. Sections 34 and 14.34.1 of the OHSR and their related guidelines explain and guide all parties to crane operator qualification and certification requirements.
  • In B.C., crane operator certification is administered through BC Crane Safety and SkilledTradesBC.
  • Section 73.2 requires that the erection, climbing and dismantling of a tower crane must be done by qualified persons and in accordance with the instructions of the crane manufacturer, or a professional engineer if the installation varies from the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Effective March 1, 2023, regulations stipulate that a tower crane working in proximity to high voltage electrical equipment, or tower cranes with overlapping operating zones, must be equipped with a zone-limiting device to prevent collision. The regulations also require a professional engineer to supervise the inspection of equipment and certify the equipment as safe for use after both crane misadventures and contacts.

While recognizing these ongoing efforts, it is crucial to acknowledge the need for continuous improvement. A regulatory amendment is now in progress requiring employers to submit a Notice of Project for tower crane erection, climbing, repositioning, and dismantling. A second proposed amendment aims to define “safe for use” in the context of certification after an annual equipment inspection.

WorkSafeBC is continuing to work with industry, labour, and the provincial government on the advancement of new safety initiatives and regulatory measures to improve crane safety.

Given the three recent incidents in B.C., we must emphasize that workplace safety can never be taken for granted. While each of the three recent incidents appears to be unique, employers are reminded of the need to be vigilant in ensuring the maintenance of their equipment and the safe working procedures of their staff.

Doug Younger is a Manager of Prevention Field Services with WorkSafeBC

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