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Killer-crane or the outcomes of transferring tower cranes into non-hazardous equipment category

There isn’t yet a clear explanation why most of the accidents involving construction lifting machines occur in autumn. It might be that mixture of rains and snow affects soil condition and, consequently, crane tracks geometry. Whatever the cause is, the effect is dreadful: in October 2016, a crane crashed on a kindergarten in Moscow, then, in Cherepovets, a crane jib collapsed on a swimming pool of a child hospital with a similar tragedy happening a week earlier in Voronezh. Fortunately, nobody was injured in any of the accidents. October 2015 turned to be more wicked…

On October 26, 2015, a tower crane operated on Marsahala Zhukova Str. in Omsk crashed on Toyota RAV4 and Gazel-Sobol micro-bus going along the road next to the construction site. The rescue team had to use Jaws of Life to release the passengers. The man, aged 30, driving Toyota, his wife, aged 33, and their 4-month son were killed. The second son of the expired, a 4-year-old, the micro-bus driver, aged 53, and the crane operator, aged 36, were taken to the hospital.

Despite all efforts of the doctors, the Gazel driver did not survive the injuries.

A criminal case was launched under Part 3, Article 216 of the Criminal Code of Russia (violation of safety rules at construction sites causing homicide by negligence of two and more people). Viktor Polikarpov, founder of Zhilstroy Just Fit Life LLC, Konstantin Semyonov, General Director of the company, Sergey Maslenkin, construction site supervisor, and Fyodor Elkin, the crane operator, were accused of safety rules violation during construction works. The crane operator is also incriminated with property damage.

Apart from this, the inspector of Siberian Rostekhnadzor was accused of negligence at work.

Killer-crane or the outcomes of transferring tower cranes into non-hazardous equipment category

In November 2016, Kuybyshev District Court of Omsk city convicted the state inspector of the crime under Part 3, Article 293 of the Russian Criminal Code (failure of an official to perform their duty as a result of negligence causing homicide of two and more people) and sentenced him for 2 years in a colony settlement.

In her interview to reporters, Tatiana Borodina, Senior Assistant to Public Prosecutor of the Omsk Region, said the court had found out that the state inspector of Rostekhnadzor did not report of the industrial safety rules violations by IPK Zhilstroy LLC. The company did not conduct industrial safety expert review after December 2014. Until April 1, 2015 the company did not submit the report on process internal controls for 2014 which should have contained information on findings of the industrial safety expert review, date of the crane technical examination and operating condition.

“As a result of Rostekhnadzor inspector’s failure to properly perform his duties, IPK Zhilstroy LLC was not subjected to an extraordinary inspection,” Ms. Borodina said. If such an inspection had been carried out, it might have revealed more violations of industrial safety rules in respect of the killer crane. In particular, those were violations in installation and fixing of buffer stops, incompliance of the buffer stops and crane track with the applicable standards, crane breakers malfunctioning, missing latches, which together led to the crane collapse and death of 4 people including a baby boy.

In November 2015, before the case was brought to the court, Rostekhnadzor posted some clarifications on its official web-site: “Hazardous industrial facilities and sites where stationary lifting machines, including tower cranes, are operated, are currently assigned hazard category IV. The applicable laws do not prescribe mandatory inspections of such facilities by Rostekhnadzor. Amendments to the law came in force on January 1, 2014. Since that time, the number of accidents involving tower cranes has increased. Between January and September 2014, there were 13 accidents of this kind against 23 accidents for the same period in 2015”. This means that formally the Rostekhnadzor inspector did not have to supervise the Omsk crane.

What concerns process management at construction sites, Alexander Moskalenko, President of GCE Group, shared his expert opinion specifically on cranes operation: “Unfortunately, crashes of construction machines become more recurrent. The cause is most often in human errors. First of all, it is ignoring safety rules: they forget to fix something, to check everything that must be checked or properly prepare the site for crane operation (horizontal position of crane tracks). People operate special equipment not having appropriate knowledge and skills. In the time of the Soviet Union vocational institutions ensured highly professional training of crane operators. This system has almost died today. Now I have no idea who operates all those cranes. Many operators are unqualified immigrants. The second point is each construction site shall be supervised by an official in charge of operational safety which also includes monitoring of proper cranes installation. A crane is a very complicated structure where even a minor inclination might lead to collapse.”

Source: TekhNADZOR magazine, No. 1–2 (122–123), Jan – Feb 2017

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