Lorry crane safety needs a lift

PHOTO: The New Paper

Lorry cranes - although much smaller than mobile cranes and crawler cranes - caused a higher percentage of crane accidents last year.

Mishaps involving lorry cranes accounted for 30 per cent of all crane-related accidents last year.

As lorry cranes are widely used on roads and near residential areas, they have the capacity to cause significant damage to property and endanger lives, said Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower.

Speaking at an annual crane safety symposium yesterday, he illustrated the point with an example of a lorry crane that toppled and crashed into a house last year.

About 400 people from the industry attended the symposium, which also included hands-on workshops for operators of different types of cranes.

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

There have been several high-profile cases involving lorry cranes this year, including two accidents at Bukit Batok which damaged walkways.

Mr Mohamed Abdul Akbar, chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce, said the increase in accidents involving lorry cranes is not due to "bad driving" but a result of their increased numbers on the roads over the past years.

The low cost of these lorry cranes - which can be used for lifting and transporting goods - means that they are popular with the construction industry, said Mr Mohamed, who is also the managing director of Nan Guan Construction.

PRESSURE

Mr Edmund Lim, who trains lorry crane operators, thinks that pressure from employers may be a factor leading to the increase in accidents.

The general manager of Wong Fong Academy added: "Everyone faces certain pressures at work, especially when (the operators) have to do quick deliveries.

"Companies can play a part to ensure that their crane operators follow protocols and be more aware of their environment."

Mr Mohamed said lorry crane drivers are generally well-trained, but operating a crane requires years of experience.

To deal with the spate of incidents involving lorry cranes, the National Crane Safety Taskforce will be looking into lorry crane operator training and competency.

Mr Mohamed added that the taskforce is considering making operators take part in refresher courses every three years to ensure that their skills are up to date.

He said: "It is the same as driving a car. You may pass your basic driving, but it does not mean that you are an expert."

Incidents involving cranes this year

April 4

A lorry crane toppled during lifting work at a worksite at Hougang Street 21.

Its load of steel plates fell onto the road and the crane operator had slight injuries.

April 5

A crawler crane toppled at a construction site next to a six-unit apartment block at Aljunied.

No one was injured, but residents had to be evacuated.

April 26

A 24-year-old worker died in Tampines while helping to unload wire mesh from a lorry loader.

He was struck by the wire meshes, which fell as they were being lifted.

The Ministry of Manpower instructed the occupier to stop all lifting activities on the worksite after the accident.

June 17

The crank of a lorry crane hit a covered walkway at Bukit Batok West Avenue 6, causing the roof of the walkway to collapse.

It collapsed on one car, damaging it, while 15 other cars, four motorcycles and the lorry were trapped in the carpark.

No one was hurt.

The driver, who is in his 60s, had forgotten to lower the crane boom.

He was arrested by the police at the scene.

July 20

A covered walkway at Bukit Batok Street 52 was damaged after a lorry crane ran into it.

No one was injured.

A 46-year-old driver was arrested over the accident.

linheng@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on October 28, 2016. Get The New Paper for more stories.