The union representing operating engineers in B.C. is calling on the province to bring in mandatory regulations governing crane assembly and dismantling after a workplace accident that left five people dead in Kelowna on Monday (July 12).
The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115 said it h as been lobbying for mandatory tower crane operator certification and improved industry safety standards for nearly two decades.
The union said that there are around 280 cranes operating around B.C. and they are often set up and taken down under tight timelines.
“We strongly encourage the B.C. government to legislate mandatory training and certification of workers involved in the assembly and dismantling of tower cranes, setting out minimum qualification standards, as well as establishing a registry of individuals who work in this industry,” said Brian Cochrane, Business Manager of IUOE Local 115.
“It is a shame that it sometimes takes major incidents like this to prompt action from Government regulators.”
It’s unclear what made the crane in Kelowna collapse on Monday. The incident killed five people and the body of the last man was not extricated from the rubble until around midnight on Tuesday night. The effort required a specialized team from Vancouver.
Four of the dead were workers on the job site, including the crane operator, while the fifth was working on an adjacent building. Another man was taken to hospital but has since been released.
The RCMP are investigating to ensure the collapse was not criminal and a WorkSafeBC investigation will also determine what occurred.
Union representatives have met with the City of Vancouver’s engineering department and created a working group, involving the city, the operating engineers union, the B.C. Association for Crane Safety, contractors and industry stakeholders to review tower crane safety regulations.
The working group has led to several safety recommendations being implemented as part of a pilot project in the City of Vancouver, including pre- and post-assembly meetings and checklists, full lane closures for vehicles, bicycles and sidewalk closures for pedestrians, better traffic control, weekday tower crane erections and dismantling, larger staging and mobile crane set up areas and granting permit extensions and allowing additional full days for crane assembly and dismantling.
Local 115 business representative Frank Carr said that public engagement and education also needs to be a part of any safety plans.
“In addition to advocating for stronger rules to make worksites with cranes safer, we also need to educate the public about the dangers above them,” Carr said.
“People aren’t looking up. Why would they? They’re busy with their day and looking forward when they’re walking down the street, not knowing what’s happening above them without realizing that if something were to fall on them, it could injure or kill them.”