Safer crane operations with new guidelines, technology

Firms urged to tap tech to boost safety even as number of incidents has fallen

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad trying his hand at operating a lorry crane remotely via a control box. The Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health Council will launch two new sets of guidelines on the safe use of lorry cr
Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad trying his hand at operating a lorry crane remotely via a control box. The Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health Council will launch two new sets of guidelines on the safe use of lorry cranes and incidents that require heavy lifting.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

Increasing the use of technology alongside new workplace safety and health guidelines should make crane operations safer, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad yesterday.

The number of crane-related dangerous occurrences has fallen from 21 cases in 2009 to eight last year, but Mr Zaqy said more needs to be done. "Companies should leverage technology to create safer work environments," he said.

"The main cause of over half of the lorry crane-related dangerous occurrences from 2015 to 2019 was that the outriggers were not fully extended and deployed, resulting in the cranes toppling."

Mr Zaqy added that technology such as stability control systems can detect the position of outriggers and compute the safe operating zone. If an operator tries to extend the lorry crane beyond the safe zone, the system will intervene and bring it back to safety.

Six government agencies - Housing Board, JTC Corporation, Land Transport Authority, MOH Holdings, National Parks Board and Public Utilities Board - have agreed to adopt tender requirements for new and existing lorry cranes to be installed with such stability control systems.

They will specify this in procurement documents by June 1 to ensure that cranes use the system at all worksites. They will also get lorry crane operators and lifting personnel to attend familiarisation programmes and push industry partners to adopt this system or other technology to make crane use safer.

Mr Zaqy also announced that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has developed a set of practices for companies to be more robust in using data loggers, which record crane operations to improve safety.

This includes reviewing data from the loggers regularly to identify critical events such as overloading and bypassing of safety devices and compiling a report of such events and taking appropriate action.

Mr Zaqy told the Workplace Safety and Health Symposium on Cranes held at Trade Association Hub in Jurong yesterday: "Such data allows worksite occupiers and crane owners to establish root causes of incidents accurately so that companies can better plan and manage their lifting operations safely."

 

All mobile cranes in Singapore have been equipped with data loggers since August 2018.

The MOM and the Workplace Safety and Health Council will also launch two new sets of guidelines covering the safe use of lorry cranes and incidents that require heavy lifting. Mr Zaqy said these will deepen the industry's risk management capabilities.

A spate of workplace fatalities last November resulted in safety time-outs at 54 sites.

The council and the Singapore Institution of Safety Officers will also launch a pilot run of a two-day course for safe lifting in July, where 20 officers will attend a clinic to upskill and provide safety advice to small and medium-sized enterprises that own or use lorry cranes.

Building technologies and solutions company Johnson Controls said it already uses stability control system technology to ensure that the crane operator does not go beyond specific safety limits.

Mr Wang Zhenwei, Johnson Controls' environmental health and safety leader for Singapore, said: "Apart from ensuring that the lorry crane is certified by authorised examiners, we also consider the competency and experience of the crane operator as many accidents are caused by human error. Including the stability control system technology further enhances safety."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Safer crane operations with new guidelines, technology'. Print Edition | Subscribe