Union calls for mandatory training and certification of tower crane workers

THE Executive Board and membership of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115, representing working people in construction and industrial shops throughout British Columbia and Yukon Territory, are calling on municipalities across B.C. and the provincial government to implement mandatory regulations governing crane assembly and dismantling following Monday’s tragic tower crane accident in Kelowna.

“We are deeply saddened by this catastrophic accident, and our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of those individuals who lost their lives or were injured as a result of this incident,” said Brian Cochrane, Business Manager of IUOE Local 115, on Wednesday. “Every worker has the right to go to work and expect to return home safely to their loved ones.”

“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,” he added.

IUOE Local 115 said it has been lobbying for mandatory tower crane operator certification and improved industry safety standards for almost 20 years. The Vancouver construction market has approximately 80 active tower cranes operating in the city, with another 200 operating throughout the province. Their assembly and dismantling are largely completed under tight timelines in high traffic and congested areas.

Local 115 Business Representative Frank Carr has been leading this engagement on behalf of the union and has been meeting with City of Vancouver’s engineering department. In response, the City, IUOE Local 115, the BC Association for Crane Safety (BC Crane Safety), signatory contractors and industry stakeholders formed a working group to review tower crane safety regulations.

The IUOE Local 115 said that the City of Vancouver, to its credit, implemented a number of recommendations from the union and BC Crane Safety as part of a “Pilot Project” to improve tower crane safety. These include requirements for:

  • Pre- and post-assembly meetings and checklists;
  • Full lane closures and better traffic control;
  • Weekday tower crane erection and dismantling;
  • Pedestrian and cycling lane closures;
  • Larger staging and mobile crane set up areas; and
  • Granting permit extensions and allowing additional full days for crane assembly and dismantling to reduce pressure on workers to get the job done under tight timelines.

“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,” noted Carr.

“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.”

“It is a shame that it sometimes takes major incidents like this to prompt action from Government regulators,” said Cochrane. “IUOE Local 115 will continue to work with industry, signatory contractors and policy-makers to ensure that industry best practices are in place to prevent any more tower crane accidents from happening in B.C.”