While construction regulations incorporate fall protection, the mobile crane industry requires a more specific plan to properly address the risks of working at height, says mobile crane hire company Johnson Crane Hire (JCH) safety, health, environment and quality executive Cedric Froneman.
“Section 10 of the construction regulations pertains specifically to fall protection, and this requires all those involved with construction to set up a fall protection plan.”
He notes that the plan must be linked to a risk assessment, thereby covering each company’s area of work and ensuring that people are protected when there is a risk of falling from height.
While Froneman notes that these regulations are good, he believes that the mobile crane sector requires additional measures such as more integrated protection for crane crews when climbing on cranes during crane construction, and when the cranes are being dismantled and maintained.
Workers are relatively close to the ground during the building, dismantling and maintenance of cranes – between 2 m and 5 m. This distance does not afford enough time for fall arrest, whereby a lanyard will catch them before they hit the ground.
To mitigate this, JCH’s fall protection plan strives for fall restraint – stopping falls from occurring at all. The company has been pursuing the implementation of this by all original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in industry since the promulgation of the construction regulations in 2014.
Froneman explains that OEMs of cranes do put certain measures in place for fall protection, but that these are not standardised; therefore, some will have fully integrated safety measures, whereas others will only have some measures as optional extras.
“We need to raise the standards for fall protection measures, and have a set of integrated fall protection criteria for mobile cranes.”
JCH’s integrated fall protection plan entails the implementation of safety measures across the crane, wherever workers are accessing it. This entails having equipment – such as access ladders, steps, non-slip walkways and handrails – in place to ensure that workers do not fall over when climbing steps; integrated anchor points and lifelines to which workers can tie their lanyards or retractable lifelines are also required.
“Because cranes are technically advanced equipment, modifications cannot be made by the supplier or clients after it has been received from the OEM; any modifications they do want to implement have to go through the OEM for approval,” notes Froneman.
Therefore, having certain requirements of JCH’s fall protection plan, and perhaps more innovative fall protection solutions as a standardised requirement for OEMs will prevent this problem, he indicates.
Froneman says JCH has made some strides since it began pursuing having its fall protection plan standardised, with a number of OEMs implementing integrated lifelines, but there is still a long way to go before these safety systems are regarded as merely optional extras. Consequently, he predicts that the company will have to approach regulatory bodies to support its efforts.
“Safety is imperative to JCH and it is a recognised training institute for crane operators, with operator competency a critical element for safe lifting during crane operation.”
Moreover, the company buys cranes only from reputable OEMs; inspects its cranes every three months; load-tests its cranes once a year in line with driven machinery regulations; and provides full maintenance service for every 500 hours in accordance with OEM requirements.
JCH operates the largest and most diverse fleet of mobile cranes in sub-Saharan Africa, with about 230 machines ranging between 8 t and 750 t cranes. The company also supplies other equipment such as various access platforms and telehandlers.