WorkSafeBC video raises awareness about crane safety

By Richard Gilbert, Journal of Commerce, June 8, 2016

WorkSafeBC has released a new educational video designed to help prevent construction fatalities due to mobile crane failures by raising the awareness of crane companies about the need for regular maintenance and inspection.

“The video is an awareness tool unto itself, but it is certainly done in association with everything else that WorkSafeBC is doing on cranes,” says Al Johnson, vice-president, prevention services, WorkSafeBC.

“Employers need to know that the content of the video is what our crane team and our officers are investigating when they are out there. So the issues the video depicts are clearly in line with what our officers do when they show up at your site. This is what you can expect them to ask you about.”

The new video went live on YouTube in April and is entitled Mobile Crane Failures: Why Maintenance and Inspections Are Critical.

Even though the incidents in the video happened in 2003 and 2010, Johnson said these case studies are still very pertinent today.

The main case study provides details about a crane incident at a residential construction site in Burnaby on Aug. 27, 2010, where a 55-year-old man was killed.

The WorkSafeBC incident investigation report for this workplace fatality was obtained by the Journal of Commerce through a freedom of information request.

The report, which was completed in December 2011, said the fatality happened when a telescopic boom truck was lifting a 500-pound steel I-beam into position for a house under construction.

Two workers were waiting to guide the beam onto two steel posts when the crane suddenly came off the truck’s chassis. The crane’s boom, along with the steel beam, fell onto the floor of the house.

The two workers were both knocked over. One died from his injuries, while the other sustained serious injuries.

The crane operator was also injured when he fell or jumped from the operator’s platform.

All 16 bolts attaching the crane to the truck frame had fractured or failed.

The conclusions of the report provide a long list of underlying factors that caused the crane-to-truck frame mounting bolts to fail and the crane to come off the chassis.

“The crane truck was inspected and maintained much less frequently than prescribed by the crane manufacturer and by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation,” said the report.

“The methods of inspection and testing that were used did not ensure the integrity of the bolts that attach the crane to the truck frame.”

SKC Siu Engineering certified the crane as safe for use on Oct. 27, 2009, on the basis of the last annual inspection carried out by Falcon Equipment. However, a visual inspection of a bolt does not allow confirmation of the condition of the concealed threaded portion. The critical parts of some components are not visible and it is difficult to remove the bolts to examine them.

The inspectors did not have the necessary qualifications to ultrasonically test for breaks, which may have shown the bolts were damaged, the report notes.

“There was no reference to removing and replacing the bolts in any reports, and the worn and deteriorated condition of the bolts at the time of failure, suggested that they had been in place for a long time,” said the report.

Yearly inspections were done by Falcon Equipment in 2008 and 2009, but no one performed any quarterly, weekly or periodic inspections. Rona, the employer, did not provide any evidence of the annual inspection required in 2007.

The professional engineer who certified the crane truck as safe in 2009 did not ensure that an appropriate inspection had taken place before providing the certification, the report reads.

The crane manufacturer required that bolts be retorqued on a semi-annual basis. But, the retorquing of the bolts was done only once in 2006 and once in 2008.

Falcon Equipment was unable to produce any documentation to show that any consultation had taken place with the manufacturer, Elliott Equipment Company, at the time of the installation of the crane on the truck in 2006.

According to WorkSafeBC, SKC Siu Engineering Ltd. was fined $18,364.11 and Falcon Equipment Ltd. was fined $60,788.17 as a result of this incident.

From WorkSafeBC’s perspective, there is a need for clarification about who has the responsibility for certifying the safety of both the crane and the flatbed truck as one big component.

Given this situation, the main message of the video is that crane companies need to undertake regular maintenance, inspection, testing and certification of mobile cranes in order to avoid the failure of critical components and workplace fatalities.

Journal of Commerce, June 8, 2016