Crane death leads to municipal road changes

0 111 Government

by Vince Versace

The death of a crane operator two years ago in Port Burwell, Ontario has resulted in recommendations to help improve municipal road safety when heavy equipment is involved.

Occupational Health and Safety

The death of a crane operator two years ago in Port Burwell, Ontario has resulted in recommendations to help improve municipal road safety when heavy equipment is involved.

“Local 793 believes that this tragedy was avoidable,” said Mike Gallagher, Local 793 business manager with the International Union of Operating Engineers. “If the roads used for construction in Bayham Township had been properly inspected, Michael Hipson’s death could have been avoided. His two young children and wife, Colleen, would still have a father and a husband.”

Hipson, 42, was killed when a road beneath him collapsed while he was driving a crane on Jan. 23, 2006.

The crane rolled into a ditch and the cab of the vehicle became submerged in water and mud.

Emergency workers were only able to remove Hipson from the cab when the 80-tonne crane was pulled up a steep embankment about two hours later.

Hipson had been working for Cooper’s Crane Rental for about three years at the time of the fatality. The Toronto-based crane company was involved in the Erie Shores Wind Farm project in Port Burwell.

The inquest began Nov. 13, 2007 and its results were released the following month.

The recommendations create a system of checks and balances to ensure municipal roads used to transport heavy equipment, like mobile cranes, can bear the load.

“What’s important in these recommendations is that the cracks are filled in, that you won’t be able to do a project like this, where you’re running heavy equipment on municipal roads, unless those roads are inspected and ensured to be safe, ” said James Robbins, the lawyer who represented Local 793 at the inquest.

Evidence presented at the inquest revealed that the roads had not been inspected by a qualified engineer either before or during the project, to see whether they could bear the weight of the crane.

“We are determined to encourage the provincial government to make appropriate changes that would ensure roadways are inspected prior to movement of our machines and heavy equipment,” Gallagher said.

“Simply issuing a building permit without the requirement for inspection of the roadway is not adequate.”

Four main recommendations highlighted by Robbins are:

•The Ministry of Transportation should give consideration to amending a section of the Highway Traffic Act to require all municipalities to make over-dimensional vehicle permits mandatory.

•The Building Code Act or its regulations be amended so that each building permit includes a check box to show all relevant permits have been applied for and granted.

•The province should consider amendments that would give consideration to periodic inspection of the structural integrity of roads and include a requirement to maintain construction details and maintenance records, including records of visual inspections.

•The permits obtained for the use of the road during the course of a project will include a requirement for a periodic engineering assessment of the structural integrity of the road, if deemed necessary and appropriate by the official granting the permit.

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