Towering regulation


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New health and safety regulations that came into force on 6 April 2010 raise a number of potential issues that developers and landlords may need to be aware of. Tower cranes are essential pieces of plant in the construction industry and, to some extent, it is possible to follow the fortunes of the economy by counting how many cranes are hovering over the skyline of our major cities.

During the last construction boom, the total number of tower cranes in use quadrupled in just a few years, and this led to concerns about whether safety standards were being rigorously maintained.

It is an important issue because, whilst relatively rare, accidents involving tower cranes tend to be "catastrophic" – they almost always result in death and/or serious injury – and they can involve members of the public, who are exposed to danger because cranes frequently oversail the public highway or other buildings neighbouring the construction site.Following two accidents in 2007, there was pressure on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to take action to try to improve safety standards, and after a consultation with the construction industry in 2009, the Notification of Conventional Tower Cranes Regulations 2010 (Regulations) have been produced. The Regulations provide for the creation of a register of "conventional tower cranes" in use on construction sites. Such cranes are also often called "assisted erected cranes" (and differ from "self-erected cranes", which are mobile and can be driven on to and off the construction site without extra equipment) and have been singled out for registration because they are often on site for a period of months and are more commonly involved in the sorts of accidents that the HSE is hoping to eliminate. The definition of a construction site is borrowed from the CDM Regulations 2007 and is very broad: "any place where construction work is being carried out", and the only sites where the Regulations do not apply are ships and sites designated by the Ministry of Defence.It is the duty of an employer to register (or re-register) a tower crane within 14 days of the crane undergoing a "thorough inspection" or a "periodic inspection", as defined in the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. These inspections must take place after initial installation and then periodically whilst the crane remains on site, so a single crane may well need to be registered several times during a construction project. If a "thorough inspection" does not take place within 14 days of the crane’s installation, the employer is still required to notify the HSE, although less information needs to be supplied, and a full notification must take place once the "thorough inspection" has taken place. The HSE has set up a website to allow notifications to be made online (www.craneregister.org.uk), and there is a flat fee of £20 for each registration.The Regulations create a number of potential issues for developers and landlords:

  • although the guidance that has been issued with the Regulations suggests that registration will be a matter for principal contractors or subcontractors who are responsible for the installation and operation of the crane, the Regulations say that an "employer" includes "a person who has control to any extent of the way in which a crane is used". This definition is broad enough that it could apply to developers and landlords;
  • the Regulations have retrospective effect, so cranes that were installed before 6 April 2010 will still need to be notified to the HSE within 28 days of the Regulations coming into force; and
  • the Regulations add to the list of administrative tasks that developers and landlords will need to ensure that their contractors are attending to. The chances that the HSE will detect breaches of the Regulations must be relatively high – it is rather difficult to miss a tower crane, after all!

Good contractors will be aware of the Regulations and will have taken steps to ensure compliance, but for their own comfort, developers and landlords would be well advised to check with their contractors to make sure.

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