Crane crashed on kindergarten in China, killing five children.
Crane crashed on kindergarten in China, killing five children.

Crane accidents occur almost everyday all over the world. But accidents in developing nations can be particularly tragic. On Oct. 10, a tower crane working at a six-story residential building in Zibo, China, collapsed onto a kindergarten, killing five children and injuring five. Just four days later, in Shanghai, a tower crane collapsed inside a powerplant, killing two operators.

In an attempt to expose workers to higher levels of training, a company in China is organizing a trade mission to send 500 operators to the U.S. to learn new skills. “This is our first time to organize such training,” says Xu Hao, spokesman for Shenzhouyilong Trade Co. Ltd. The goal of the trip is to help the country’s crane workers see how construction works in the U.S. and understand “advanced Western training ideas,” Xu says.

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  • The trade company sent out requests for proposals in September and invited Ronald Gray, owner of Tower Crane School of Phoenix, to bid. A few weeks later, Gray was packing his bags to sign a deal. “I think it’s flattering,” says Gray. “They are just trying to stop the accidents like we are.”

    If the mission goes next year as planned, the group would send about 20 workers at a time in two-week rotations, with translators. As operators return home, they would help train other workers on safe practices. “A few years ago, China was not paying very much attention to safety,” Xu says. “Nowadays, it is different.”

    Some Chinese safety experts are skeptical because the plan is costly and workers may not be familiar with American machinery. But Beijing has gradually relinquished its control of safety to local governments, labor unions and private companies, and in some locales operators must now gain certification. This has necessitated higher levels of training so operators can pass the exams. “We are confident that our choice is right, and we hope to finish this project in a one-year period,” says Xu.