Tower crane safety on construction projects
Learn about the regulatory requirements and duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for the safe use of tower cranes on projects.
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Tower cranes are designed, tested, and manufactured to lift or move loads safely. When workplace parties use them properly, they provide safe, reliable service and lift heavy loads to great heights. If workplace parties do not follow safe operating practices, which includes regular inspection, testing, and maintenance of the equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, tower cranes can have an increased potential for catastrophic incidents.
Before tower cranes are erected at a job site, their structural elements are subject to non-destructive testing. Once the crane is set up, workplace parties conduct additional inspections and tests before they put the tower crane into service.
Crane operators and personnel working with cranes need to know crane about:
- findings from required periodic inspections
- location of energized overhead electrical conductors
- effects of high winds or other environmental considerations
This guide does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.
Duties of workplace parties
To protect workers, employers must ensure that all workplace parties comply with all provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. Some of the duties of an employer who is covered by the OHSA include ensuring that:
- equipment, material, and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition
- every precaution reasonable in the circumstances is taken for the protection of a worker
- all vehicles, machines, tools, and equipment shall be maintained in a condition that does not endanger a worker
- no vehicles, machines, tools, and equipment shall be used while it is defective or hazardous or when the weather or other conditions are such that its use is likely to endanger a worker
- all vehicles, machines, tools and equipment are used in accordance with any operating manuals issued by the manufacturers
- copies of any operating manuals issued by the manufacturers (for vehicles, machines, tools and equipment rated at greater than 10 horsepower) are kept readily available at the project
- the tower crane is inspected by a competent worker to determine whether it can handle the rated capacity and to identify any hazardous conditions. (The inspection shall be performed before the tower crane is first used at the project and thereafter at least once a year or more frequently as recommended by the manufacturer)
- all engineering reports and maintenance records for the tower crane are kept at the project
- the foundation of the tower crane is designed by a professional engineer in accordance with the crane manufacturer’s specifications, and signed drawings are at the construction project
- before the tower crane is erected at the project, a professional engineer shall ensure that the structural elements and components of the crane be subjected to non-destructive testing to ensure the structural integrity of the crane
- the structural elements and components are inspected after the tower crane is erected and before it is used at the project and at intervals not greater than twelve months
- safety systems — load indicators, rated capacity limiters, limit switches — are operating properly and are continuously monitored and tested per manufacturer’s instructions and the construction regulation
To protect workers, supervisors must ensure that all workplace parties comply with all provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and prescribed regulations. Under the OHSA, a supervisor has duties that include, but are not limited to:
- ensuring that workers use the protective devices and work in compliance with measures and procedures required by the OHSA and regulations
- taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers
- inspecting — or designating a competent person appointed by the supervisor to inspect — machinery and equipment at least once a week (or more frequently as required) to ensure that the machinery and equipment does not endanger any worker
Every person who supplies any machine, device, tool, or equipment under any rental, leasing, or similar arrangement for use in or about a workplace covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act has obligations, including ensuring that the machine, device, tool or equipment:
- is in good condition
- complies with the OHSA and related regulations
- is maintained in good condition (if it is the person’s responsibility under the rental, leasing, or similar arrangement to do so)
The owner of a crane or similar hoisting device must:
- keep a permanent record of all inspections, tests and maintenance of, and repairs and modifications to the crane or similar hoisting device
- prepare a logbook for use at a project that will include the permanent record referred to above covering the last 12 months, which may include time the crane or similar hoisting device is on the project
- keep this logbook with the crane or similar hoisting device
- retain copies of all logbooks and records for the crane or similar hoisting device, and make them available to the constructor on request
Erection of a tower crane
- Before a tower crane is erected at a project, a professional engineer shall ensure that the structural elements and components of the crane be subjected to non-destructive testing to ensure the structural integrity of the crane
- The professional engineer conducting an inspection or under whose direction an inspection is done shall prepare a written report of the test results
- The constructor shall keep the report at the project while the crane is erected
Points to consider for operating a tower crane safely
- Have all the specific hazards associated with the work in progress been analyzed?
- Has specific training with respect to the hazards of erecting and operating a tower crane been provided (authorized crane operator, fall protection, material handling, rigging, signalling)?
- Are rescue procedures in place?
- Has the tower crane been properly maintained (maintenance record, logbooks)?
- Has the tower crane been properly inspected before erection (non-destructive testing report, components identified and tracked to ensure all structural components inspected)?
- Has the tower crane been properly inspected after erection (engineering reports for the foundation, shoring and bracing, the structural integrity of the building, drawings, and reports to be approved and signed by a professional engineer)?
- Construction safety
- Infrastructure Health and Safety Association
- Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
- A Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act
If you need more information about safety requirements please contact the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Health & Safety Contact Centre at