Doubts over new crane log

12 May 2010

The HSE’s new tower crane register came into force on 6 April amid widespread doubts over its safety benefits and scope. Under the regulations, contractors must notify the HSE of any conventional tower cranes installed on sites within 14 days of their thorough examination.

They must also give the site address, the name and address of the crane’s owner, technical details of the crane, the date of the thorough examination, plus any defects that pose a risk of serious injury (see box for details). The register will then be available for public inspection.

But contractors, who are now registering their cranes, question the logic of keeping a log of cranes that are already erected, without enforcing higher safety standards during erection, dismantling and use. They claim other measures, such as targeting the competency of individuals working on cranes or integrating crane safety into the CDM regulations, would be preferable.

“Most crane failures are related to erection and dismantling,” said a spokesman for the CIOB’s Health & Safety Advisory Committee. “There’s no requirement to do anything differently, all you’re doing is keeping a log several days after the crane has gone up. In all the consultation responses I saw, no one thought it would improve the safety of cranes on site.”

In his view, the chief benefit would be that HSE inspectors could check any new cranes they saw against the register and investigate any that were unregistered.

James Carpenter, a site manager at Kier, added his doubts. “The erection of a tower crane is generally a well planned event involving detailed inspections, but in my experience it’s the subsequent use of sundry equipment such as chains and skips, which are frequently changed during a job, that really need regular checks and can cause serious accidents.” 

Jonathan Edwin, business manager at Scafftag, is concerned that focusing attention on the tower cranes register could be at the expense of subsequent inspections: “Inspections remain a legal requirement and companies should still ensure best practice when it comes to inspecting tower cranes to ensure the safety of workers and the public,” he said.

In its response to the HSE consultation on the register, the CIOB questioned whether a new set of regulations was warranted when registration could be incorporated into existing CDM paperwork. At the start of work on site, contractors fill in an F10 notification for the HSE, detailing the names of the clients and the construction team. As the system allows for later submissions, for example when subcontractors start on site, details of cranes could be added later.

However, Richard Webber, Keir’s safety, health & environment manager, backs a standalone system to promote crane safety: “Most people don’t see this as a family member of CDM, and it works in the same way that lifting operations and lifting equipment regulations are separate from CDM,” he said.

But most of the industry will be watching implementation of the register with a degree of scepticism.

“When we’re two years down the road, I think a new government will look back and see whether it’s been effective, or if it’s had any benefit,” said the CIOB committee member.

Digested duties

The new regulations:

Details that will have to be notified to HSE are:

The register will be open to public scrutiny. Notifications will be subject to an administration fee of £20.


The British Safety Industry Federation has warned contractors that substandard and counterfeit personal protective equipment (PPE) is a growing problem in the UK, which could put construction workers at risk. If a product is unusually cheap, does not state its performance criteria and/or carries suspicious approval markings, this should trigger further investigation. The BSIF is encouraging PPE distributors and suppliers to sign up to its Registered Safety Supplier Scheme. The scheme’s shield symbol will identify products as genuine and safe.


The Health & Safety Executive is warning workers not to operate telehandlers if the right-hand side window is missing or broken, after a fatal accident in Scotland. A 36-year-old man was crushed by a telehandler’s descending boom while leaning through the broken window aperture, the third such fatality in seven years. The side window is designed to prevent operator access to the boom – if operators lean out of the window, to adjust a mirror for example, they may inadvertently lower the boom onto themselves. The safety notice can be viewed at www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/telehandlers.html

In a survey by insurance broker Lockton of 45 construction and property companies, 40% agreed asbestos risks are not taken seriously enough by the industry. Half do not have, or are unaware of, their company’s asbestos management system. Lockton says half a million commercial buildings in the UK contain asbestos, and the shift from new-build to refurbishment will raise the risk of exposure. Under the 2006 Control of Asbestos Regulations, the client or main contractor must make a named individual responsible for asbestos management.


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