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Crackdown on cranes PDF Print E-mail

The Ministry of Labour is coming to see your tower crane


If your site has a tower crane, expect the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to come knocking.


In 2005, several incidents happened in the Ottawa area:

  • A tower crane’s load ascended uncontrolled. The cable snapped, dropping an over 200-pound block into a public intersection. Luckily, no one was hurt.
  • After this problem was fixed, the same crane’s block ascended uncontrolled. The operator applied the brakes in time.
  • Another crane’s concrete bucket descended uncontrolled.

These incidents led MOL inspectors to look into the condition and operation of tower cranes in the Ottawa area. The MOL launched the Eastern Ontario Tower Crane Audit.


Previously, it was rare for an inspector to climb a tower crane to examine the conditions of the tower, operator’s cab, control systems, boom, and other elements from up close. Now, the inspectors began climbing the cranes in the Ottawa area. They ended up auditing 20 cranes, using a checklist based on the CSA standard Z248-04 (itals)Code for Tower Cranes(enditals) to ensure consistency in their inspections.


What they saw came as quite a surprise.



Inspectors found startling examples of poor maintenance practices.


Equipment was often in terrible shape, patched together or mended improperly. They saw improper wiring, broken electrical connectors, non-standard parts (e.g. nails used instead of cotter pins), and unrepaired safety redundancies.


Some operators, using generic checklists, were checking off items that weren’t even part of their crane.


Most of the problems were “common sense” issues – they were obvious hazards.



The inspectors ended up issuing 39 orders among the 20 cranes.


Most orders were based on Section 25(2)(h) of the (itals)Occupational Health and Safety Act(enditals), which states that an employer must “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” The inspectors considered the provisions of CSA standard Z248-04 (itals)Code for Tower Cranes(enditals) to be reasonable precautions.


Here’s a sample of some of the orders:

  • Electrical connectors missing or inadequate for use.
  • Guarding: Guard around chain and sprockets for hoist upper-limit control mechanism missing.
  • Slewing brake not to manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Wind speed or temperature indicators missing (you also need a sign in the cab stating the wind and temperature conditions which should stop the crane operation).
  • No procedure for operating more than one crane on site.

After the inspections, the MOL reviewed its findings and drew these conclusions:

  • The safety condition of the crane usually depended on the age of the crane. The older the crane, the worse the safety condition.
  • Most of the problems were found in the system of controls rather than in the structure of the crane.


The findings in Eastern Ontario led the MOL to wonder if similar problems occur elsewhere in Ontario. So this year, the MOL has launched a crackdown on cranes throughout the province. Expect inspectors to show up on your site.



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