Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Keep the Crane 'MOT'!"

Campaigners going to Westminster

THE price of liberty, they used to say, is eternal vigilance.

The same is true of safety, especially under this government. Last month I commented on how campaigners who had fought for something to be done about dangerous tower cranes, spurred by deaths like that of Michael Alexa in Battersea, were concerned that the government could scrap the legislation they had achieved.

Michael Alexa was killed in the street outside his mother's house on September 26, 2006 when a 165 foot crane collapsed in Thessaly Road, Battersea. The crane driver, Jonathan Cloke, 37. was also killed.

Following campaigning, in which Michael Alexa's mother Liliana played an active part with the Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group, supported by the Construction Safety Campaign and London Hazards Centre, in 2010 the Notification of Tower Crane Regulations Act was introduced, with a 'Crane Register'. Although campaigners might not have been satisfied this went far enough, at least they had got a result.

But it seems for the government it went too far.

In line with David Cameron's New Year's Resolution to "kill off the health and safety culture for good", Employment Minister Chris Grayling has had a review examining health and safety legislation, under Professor Ragnar Löfstedt - Director of the King's Centre for Risk Management at King's College, London. Lofstedt's consultations are due to end on July 4.

But it is reported that Löfstedt has proposed repealing the Notification of Tower Crane Regulations (2010).

This is despite the fact that a jury at Westminister Coroners Court this year squarely blamed bad management and inadequate safety checks or maintenance for the crane disaster which killed two men in Battersea. Had they been been allowed to they would have returned a verdict of "unlawful killing".

During the inquest it was stated that four bolts had failed some time before the accident. The owners, Falcon Cranes, had replaced them, but failed to investigate the causes of the failure. "Speaking after the verdict Liliana Alexa, Mr Alexa’s mother, said: “The bolts needed to be replaced at least every eight years but this crane had no history when Falcon bought it in 2002, so who knows how old the bolts actually were?"

Under the new legislation fought for by campaigners, cranes have to be fully registered and have a detailed history that can be checked by those hiring the machinery.

In the decade before the law was introduced there were 60 crane accidents, with 9 deaths and 25 serious injuries. The Health and Safety Executive which provides those figures took Falcon's 180 cranes out of service in 2007, and checked them. It found 10 per cent failed its tests.

That is just one company.

But Lofstadt proposes scrapping regulations, both on inspection and training of staff, and letting the industry look after its own affairs - as it has plainly failed to do, with dangers both to workers in construction and the public. And knowing the way this government thinks, deregulation is just the advice it wanted.

That is why the Battersea Crane Action Group campaigners, the Construction Safety Campaign and London Hazards Centre are going back to the Department of Work and Pensions to register their protest at noon on July 3, and following that with a lobby of MPs and meeting in the Houses of Parliament. That is one day before the consultation ends. Let's hope they have a good turn out.

Here is their leaflet:

Crane protest

Crane protest

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