Above and Beyond Two owners of large tower crane fleets cut risks by stepping up safety programs
Hanging more than 200 ft over a jobsite in downtown Kansas City, Mo., James Hague doesn’t seem to notice the tiny people and equipment below his feet.
The senior technician intently works a dial gauge that measures the play in a crane’s turntable—the giant platform that rotates the jib. “A bearing could go bad,” says Hague, suspended from a full-body harness. “And that’s something we want to know before the top falls off.”
Although this vertigo-inducing procedure is not required by law for a routine inspection, it is now standard practice at Kansas City, Mo.-based J.E. Dunn Logistics Inc., which is stepping up its safety program in an effort to cut risks—especially those related to hoisting equipment.
After Hague performs an inspection for one of the company’s cranes, he climbs down, sits in his pickup truck and enters his findings in a smart phone or laptop. In seconds, the electronic report shoots off to a file server in the home office.
J.E. Dunn’s safety managers can then pull reports on the company’s 31 tower cranes from anywhere in the U.S., using a secure Internet site. In the past, Hague and the firm’s other half-dozen inspectors would fill out a paper eventually filed away in a cabinet.
“I can tell you that we have had a very, very aggressive inspection program for years,” says Dan Euston, president of general contractor J.E. Dunn Construction, the logistic unit’s parent. “It’s just becoming more formalized and stringent as we’ve started sending more tower cranes around the country.”
After a spate of catastrophic crane accidents that rocked the construction industry in 2008, contractors like J.E. Dunn are boosting their quality checks—and trying to go above and beyond current safety standards for cranes. “We felt that that was an area of the industry that had risk,” Euston explains.
Morrow Equipment Co., a large crane-rental company in Salem, Ore., is doing the same. Morrow is putting its workers through a newly built, 9,000-sq-ft training center finished last summer.
Among the classes are seminars on fall protection, rigging, lockout/tagout and electrical protection—fundamental training in areas that clients, regulators and insurers have tagged as risky. Nearby, at the company’s maintenance shop, a new system of red, blue and green stickers—which inspectors must sign and date—indicates whether or not crane parts are safe to go into the field.
We visited both J.E. Dunn and Morrow this past fall to see how they are changing. Both companies are improving quality control (QC)—internally tracking inspections, maintenance and repairs—while and pairing it more aggressively with quality assurance (QA)—proving to the outside world that you did what you say you did. “We have to be diligent in maintaining our equipment and erecting equipment that we truly know—not that we believe—but that we truly know is safe,” says Peter Juhren, Morrow’s corporate service manager. “The accountability is the largest part of this new process.”
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