Kelowna crane collapse highlights ongoing calls for increased safety regulations in B.C.

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A union that advocated successfully in 2007 for crane-operators to be certified is calling on local governments and the province of B.C. to require better safety precautions when the fixtures are put up or taken down.

The call comes in the wake of Monday’s deadly crane collapse in Kelowna, the cause of which is still under investigation.

Frank Carr, the business representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers local 115, shared his condolences for the five people who lost their lives as he pressed for the need to regulate the work.

“It’s a tragedy and we’ve been campaigning and lobbying for regulation changes for almost 20 years,” said Carr in an interview with CTV News Vancouver.

In cooperation with the union, the City of Vancouver started a pilot project earlier this year. It includes more time to do the work, better traffic control and larger staging areas. Carr said it’s a good start as he called on the province to do more.

“It’s complicated and highly specialized,” he said. “That’s why we’re calling on the government to mandate training and certification for workers in this industry.”

Carr said each section of a crane can weigh tens of thousands of pounds, while the whole machine can weigh in the hundreds of thousands. And cranes are getting bigger and more complex over time, he said.

In an email to CTV News, WorkSafeBC described the current rules for taking down a crane.

“The dismantling of the tower crane must be done by a qualified (not certified) person and in accordance with the instruction of the crane manufacturer or a professional engineer,” the agency said.

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains wasn’t available for an interview. Instead, he released a statement, which read, in part:

“It would be inappropriate for government to presuppose the cause of this incident which took five lives as we await the results of multiple investigations underway by the BC Coroners Service, the RCMP and WorkSafeBC.”

The statement went on to say once those findings are in, the province will take preventive action.

Asked why the work isn’t currently regulated, Carr cited a lack of attention on the issue.

“It’s not top of mind for everybody,” he said. “After this catastrophe, unfortunately, if we can’t get these changes now we never will.” 

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