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Blitz Results: Tower Crane Blitz

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: January 2012
  • Content last reviewed: January 2012

The condition of tower cranes in Ontario continues to be a key concern. There have been a number of serious incidents involving tower cranes at construction sites in recent years.

Due to the age of many tower cranes in Ontario, scheduled inspection and maintenance are important. It is important that a professional engineer reviews all elements of a tower crane such as electrical, hydraulic and mechanical systems (not just structural components) prior to and following the tower crane being erected.

The Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) is developing a standard to be followed by engineers when inspecting tower cranes.

Tower cranes are:

  • exposed to many elements such as weather extremes
  • subjected to heavy use for extended periods, and
  • prone to stress, fatigue and breakdowns.

The Ministry of Labour recently conducted two initiatives that focused on tower cranes:

  1. Information blitz: Between May 1 and June 15, 2011, ministry industrial inspectors and engineers met with owners and suppliers of towers cranes across Ontario to ensure they understood their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Regulations for Construction Projects. These responsibilities include a requirement that tower cranes be maintained in good condition.
  2. Enforcement blitz: Between June 6 and June 30, 2011, construction inspectors visited construction sites with tower cranes in the Greater Toronto and Niagara areas. They checked that tower cranes were erected and inspected properly, maintained in good condition and safely operated.

Report summary

Information blitz: In May and June of 2011, ministry industrial inspectors conducted 37 field visits to more than 20 owner/supplier workplaces, reviewing in detail the regulatory requirements.

Enforcement blitz: In June 2011, ministry construction inspectors conducted a blitz of tower cranes. They made 76 field visits to 30 construction projects and issued 245 orders, including 15 stop work orders.

Full report

Workplace inspection blitzes

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 identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry's website. The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.

Inspectors' findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and training.

Tower crane blitzes

Thirty-three inspectors visited more than 50 workplaces during the tower crane information and enforcement blitzes. Inspectors made a total of 113 field visits, visiting some of the workplaces several times.

Information blitz

Inspectors spoke to tower crane owners and suppliers about:

  • Requirements involving a tower crane's condition, including maintenance records, non-destructive testing (NDT) records and electrical components that are suitable for their intended use, etc.
  • Crane inspection procedures and engineering reports
  • Testing methods and records for crane components
  • Repairs, modifications and maintenance procedures
  • Examples to demonstrate current and historical records of each tower crane, based on manufacturers' maintenance manual recommendations
  • Tower crane operational testing and operator logs
  • Appropriate engineering and electrical approvals
  • Number, age and location of each supplier's cranes, and
  • Proper blocking, racking and storage methods

Enforcement blitz

Inspectors issued a total of 245 orders. More than one-third (89 orders) were issued under the OHSA.

The blitz focused on a number of key hazards. Of those:

  • 32 orders (13 per cent) were for violations involving tower crane erection, inspections and testing
  • 32 orders (13 per cent) were for fall protection violations
  • 17 orders (7 per cent) were for electrical safety violations, and
  • 10 orders (4 per cent) were for fire safety violations.

During the tower crane initiative, 15 stop work orders were issued. Stop work orders are issued to address serious health and safety concerns that present an immediate danger to workers.

Conclusion

The ministry's 2011 enforcement blitz resulted in 245 orders being issued to the 30 projects visited by inspectors. The average number of total orders per project were down in 2011 from 2007 when the ministry also conducted a tower crane blitz across Ontario.

As well, the number of stop work orders per project in 2011 was also lower than in 2007.

Fewer orders written in the 2011 blitz period indicates a trend towards improvement in heath and safety compliance at the sites that were visited.

During the 2007 blitz between April and September, ministry construction inspectors inspected 120 projects and issued 1,415 orders, including 151 stop work orders for unsafe work activities. Nearly every crane inspected was shut down for safety violations.

Enforcement of hazards involving tower cranes helps to create a level playing field for owners and suppliers of tower cranes.

Feedback by tower crane owners and suppliers indicates the 2011 information blitz was very beneficial in increasing general and specific knowledge of regulatory requirements and improving workplace safety culture.

Next steps

Construction inspectors will continue to inspect tower cranes at construction projects throughout Ontario. Industrial inspectors will continue to inspect tower cranes at industrial establishments such as shipping yards and pre-cast concrete operations.

The ministry will consider further initiatives.

Compliance help for employers

Employers are encouraged to seek workplace health and safety compliance assistance from the health and safety associations that comprise Health & Safety Ontario: Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, Public Services Health & Safety Association, Workplace Safety North, and Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.

For more information on identifying, preventing and controlling workplace hazards, please contact our safety partners.