Crane operators must be protected against extreme heat, urges Unite

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Tower crane operators,
© Bombaert

Construction union Unite is urging for action to be taken to support tower crane operators against extreme heat

The extreme heat of recent days could be putting crane drivers at risk their union Unite has warned.

Unite has written to the UK’s largest construction companies to seek assurances that safety measures are in place to ensure that tower crane operators are not being placed at risk due to high temperatures.

Unite has issued its call as temperatures are due to reach up to 39 degrees today (7 August).

While responsible contractors will ensure that most construction workers receive extra breaks to guard against heat stress, this often does not apply to tower crane operators who often only receive one break during a ten hour shift.

Unite says that the vast majority of cranes are not fitted with air conditioning, meaning that in hot weather they become glorified “greenhouses” pitting operators at extreme risk of suffering heat stress.

Minimum standards

The union believes that all tower crane cabs should be fitted with air-conditioning but in the meantime, Unite is calling for the following minimum standards:

  • All break times must only start once the operator has reached the site canteen
  • No operator to work longer than 3 hours without a break
  • A mini-fridge/cooler to be placed in all tower crane cabs to ensure the operator has access to cold water
  • Bottled drinking water to be supplied free of charge.

Fully protecting tower crane operators

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain, said: “It is imperative that crane operators are fully protected against extreme heat while at work.

“Unite has written to the largest construction contractors seeking assurances that minimum standards are in place to ensure that the health of tower crane operators is being protected.

“If a tower crane operator suffers from heat stress, not only is their own health being put at risk but if they are involved in an accident the entire site could be in danger.

“The long-term solution is for all tower crane cabs to be air-conditioned. In the short term, drivers must receive additional breaks, which begin when they reach the canteen, a fridge or cooler is installed in the cab and sufficient quantities of bottled water are freely supplied.”

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