Debate | Is there a security flaw in mobile lifting?
A lack of understanding and knowledge about the safety benefits of using crane mats, combined with a need for clearer guidance on assessing the suitability of the work platform, creates problems safety equipment for lifting operations using mobile cranes on site.
Lifting operations on construction sites usually take into account a series of considerations – from the choice of crane to possible weather conditions.
But with many elevators using mobile lifting equipment positioned on work platforms, is safety a high enough priority at ground level?
RCE recently partnered with construction safety products company Brilliant Ideas to discuss safety challenges, as well as the importance of having and applying proper guidance.
When it comes to lifting operations, there is a complex interface between the Designated Person (PA) for the lifting and the Temporary Work Coordinator.
Generally, items above ground – such as the crane and lifting accessories – are the responsibility of the PA while items buried from the stabilizers downwards are the responsibility of the interim works coordinator.
As such, the role of the coordinator of temporary works in the management of this interface is essential for safe lifting.
Experience and training
McAlpine Lifting Solutions department head Craig Hook points out that guidelines published to support Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment (Loler) regulations – which put the responsibility for planning elevators on the PA – may present challenges if the PA lacks adequate experience.
“When the PA does not have the right experience or the right capacity for his training, then he has to rely on the expertise of others, but at the end of the day he has to make sure that the whole plan will work.
“So while we have that clear line, we can get this awkward disclaimer if we don’t have a PA that fully understands the terrain.”
VolkerFitzpatrick, Temporary Works Manager Ian Horton-Plant adds: “The concern is that if the PA has the ultimate responsibility, all they are taught is to charge over the area in terms of [determining an appropriate] size of the crane mat and it does not go beyond this point. So a person may have the responsibility but not necessarily a full understanding of what the crane mats should do. “
Brilliant Ideas Business Development Director Dan Westgate describes stabilizers as “where civil engineering meets structural engineering.”
“That slice in the middle is the stabilizer mat and I think that’s where the responsibility for that element is lost,” he says. “We want to see materials certified and / or tested. For us, this is where the knowledge gap is. Some access points simply divide the load on the stabilizers by the area of the mat.
Lessons from other sectors
However, it is possible to learn from other sectors. The Federation of Threshing Specialists (FPS), for example, has a work platform orientation and certification approach that confirms that a work platform has been designed to a defined standard.
According to Jim Tod, group specialist Tony Gee & Partners, also director of the Temporary Works Forum, crane operators could use a similar system to indicate whether a crane foundation is suitable for the loads to be lifted.
“That would bridge the gap and solve the problem,” he says.
But Tod explains that other factors may be at play in crane collapses.
“An internet search of recent crane collapses in the UK shows that they are not just caused by ground failure under the stabilizer. There are examples of short-rigged cranes and the collapse is basically operator error. “
Bachy Soletanche chief engineer David Hard, who has worked on the FPS guidance, adds that including guidance in regulations – such as Loler – would help underpin it. He also says that the piling industry only achieved his approach through cultural change.
“We’ll have situations where they won’t remove the bed from the truck if the stacking mat is unsigned,” he says.
“It’s a cultural shift, and the reason it happened with the stacked mats is that when it all started, the Health & Safety Executive was recruited, which carried a certain weight. “
Apply the advice
In the future, it is important to better apply the guidelines that exist. Lendlease temporary works manager Andrew Stotesbury believes there is sufficient legislation but wonders if there is a will to enforce it.
“It is the responsibility of prime contractors and their supply chains to provide a safe workplace under the CDM [Construction (Design and Management) Regulations] and under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, ”he said. “Not doing one of the things we’ve been talking about is failure and it’s about exercising that authority.”
Kier’s temporary works advisor Jemma Quin said increased collaboration could be key. “It’s about the training you get, both on the temporary work side and the AP side – and maybe it’s about bringing those two groups together and discussing how we can draft some sort. guidance document on this subject. “
Westgate says that, given the absence of a “guide that comes to a formal conclusion”, it is possible for the industry to “refine” the guidelines.
While he agrees that CDM regulations define roles and responsibilities, he believes they are not “brainwashed enough by key decision makers on the ground.”
“More often than not, they don’t know what a property looks like,” he says. “That’s why we think if there was a design guide that captured some of the key elements regarding what a good look looks like versus that, in this case stabilizer mats, the industry would benefit.” . We have read a tremendous amount of guides and standards and there is rarely a definite conclusion.
The discussion concluded that more formal collaboration is needed and Quin plans to return the task to the Temporary Works Forum to move it forward for the benefit of the entire industry.
Work on a new railway bridge at Bletchley for the East West Rail project required extensive lifting operations.
Last summer, the demolition of the existing concrete bridge from the 1960s to allow the construction of the new rail link between Oxford, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury used three of the largest cranes in the UK.
These were a 1,200 t Gottwald AK680-3, a 1,000 t Liebherr LTM 1800-D and a 750 t Liebherr LTM 1750. Each crane was used for different areas of the 15 spans to be removed. A 500 ton crawler crane also operated to support the demolition team.
Tony Gee & Partners designed the temporary works including the crane platform. Its group specialist, Jim Tod, says the project is an example of the trend to use larger and larger cranes combined with a changing approach to construction.
“If you go back 25 years, a 50t crane was a big crane, now a 1,200t crane can come up there and do a lift for you,” he says. “And we don’t build things the way we used to.
“We used to slide bridges, now we’re more likely to lift them up or even use self-propelled modular carriers, so the development of the plant has allowed us to make things more buildable. You can lift something heavier and / or heavier in position.
According to Tod, this trend will make the need for safe elevator management increasingly critical.
In the debate
This report is based on a virtual roundtable held in April 2021. The discussion took place in association with Brilliant Ideas.
Contributed to the discussion:
David Dur chief engineer, Bachy Soletanche
Craig hook Manager, McAlpine Lifting Solutions
Ian Horton-Plant temporary works manager, VolkerFitzpatrick
Jemma quin temporary works advisor, Kier
Andrew Stotesbury temporary works manager, Lendlease
Jim tod group specialist, Tony Gee & Partners
Dan Westgate Business Development Manager, Brilliant Ideas
Claire Smith editor, new civil engineer
Produced in association with
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