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Union invests $2M in tower crane operation training in Lower Mainland

Working to make mobile crane and tower crane compulsory trades
A Manitowoc 85 tonne mobile crane alongside an excavator at the IUOE Local 115 training site. (IUOE Local 115/Special to The News)

The union representing equipment operators in the heavy construction industry has invested $2 million for tower crane safety training in Maple Ridge.

International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115 purchased two new tower cranes for their training facility along 256 Street and are developing a specialized curriculum with Skilled Trades BC, an agency which supports and promotes skilled trades in the province based on the highest standards for training.

One crane is a Potain tower crane, assembled and mounted on a foundation on site, and the other is a Liebherr self-erect tower crane which will have the mobility to move around the site.

The Potain crane will also have a climbing ring on it which will allow for the training of the operator on the operation of the tower crane and it will allow for the possibility of training crews to climb, lower, assemble, and dismantle the tower crane, explained Josh Towsley, assistant business manager at the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115.

The 40 acre facility already has 25 to 30 pieces of equipment there for training around heavy construction, road building, paving, mobile cranes, and now the new tower cranes.

“The opportunity to invest on the tower crane side really became important, in our view, after the July 2021 tower crane collapse in Kelowna,” explained Towsley.

“So we started looking at ways that our union could be part of the solution of improving tower crane safety.”

A 2019 crane collapse in Seattle, WA, noted Towsley, happened during disassembly. The Kelowna collapse which killed five people also occurred during disassembly, in addition to the crane collapse in Burnaby in January this year.

READ ALSO: RCMP recommend charges in Kelowna fatal crane collapse

Most recently, an incident last Wednesday, Feb. 21, cost a worker their life when a load being suspended from a crane fell at a construction site in Vancouver.

“Having a training program specific to tower crane operators allows for enforcement of the regulations around certification of tower crane operators in the province of BC as well,” said Towsley.

Towsley is hoping to see both mobile crane and tower crane made compulsory trades.

ALSO: Calls for safety echo after dropped crane load kills Vancouver worker

“What that means is in order to work in those occupations, you either have to be a journey person operator or a registered apprentice,” he explained.

Currently the tower crane curriculum is embedded with the mobile crane course. So, a lot of tower crane operators don’t see the value in coming to a seven or eight week program where only two weeks of the course applies to them.

The new cranes will allow for curriculum development through Skilled Trades BC, specific to tower crane operators at the IUOE Local 115 training facility.

“Whenever you have an industrial accident as high profile and tragic as what happened in Kelowna, you want the response from your province to be that it becomes the leader in safety in that industry. And I think we’ve fallen short of that,” said Towsley, adding the union’s investment will help the province become not only a leader in tower crane safety in BC, but across the country.

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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