Lorry cranes: Expert group to look at enhancing safety

This mobile crane crashed into a POSB branch in Woodlands in February after the driver lost control of the vehicle.
This mobile crane crashed into a POSB branch in Woodlands in February after the driver lost control of the vehicle.ST FILE PHOTO

Work group set up to help lift operating standards as crane incidents rise

Lorry cranes make up less than 15 per cent of all cranes in Singapore, but accounted for 30 per cent of all dangerous incidents involving cranes this year.

With these cranes gaining popularity because of their smaller size and lower cost, an expert work group has been set up to study ways to improve safety when operating them.

Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan announced at the annual Crane Safety Symposium that the work group had been set up following an increase in "dangerous occurrences" involving lorry cranes.

These are incidents that endanger lives, such as when a crane topples over or is struck by lightning and catches fire.

Lorry cranes are used widely in public areas - on roads and in residential areas - because they can be operated in more confined spaces than bigger cranes, so they "can cause significant damage to property and endanger lives", said Mr Tan.

Of the 26,500 cranes registered with the Ministry of Manpower, 3,500 are lorry cranes.

The work group - made up of crane manufacturers, operators and owners - will review the training of operators and safe practices, and will announce its findings in six months.

An area that it plans to look into is improving training so that crane operators can learn in classrooms what they can currently learn only on the job.

Citing an example, Mr Akbar Kader, who heads the work group, said crane operators "go by experience" in deciding how much to extend the "outriggers", or struts, that support a lorry crane.

The work group is looking into ways to teach operators how to gauge this based on the weight of the load carried by the crane, said Mr Akbar, who is chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce.

The work group was among three recommendations made by the task force, set up in 2009 after a spate of crane-related accidents.

The task force also recommended using surge protective devices in tower cranes to prevent fires in the event of a lightning strike, and installing data loggers on cranes so employers can track whether operators are using the machinery safely.

There were 17 "crane-related dangerous occurrences" in the first nine months of this year, Mr Tan said yesterday. One worker died and eight were injured as a result of the incidents.

Last year, there were 22 such occurrences, which resulted in 11 workers being injured. There were no fatalities.

Mr Tan said poor maintenance of cranes and unsafe practices in the lifting operations were two main causes of such incidents.

He urged companies to adhere to safety standards, keep their cranes well-maintained and ensure that operators are adequately trained.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Lorry cranes: Expert group to look at enhancing safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe