The extreme heat of recent days could be putting crane drivers at risk their union Unite has warned as the UK was struck by yet another August heatwave, with temperatures in some parts of the UK expected to rise on Friday (August 7) to 39F.
The construction union is calling for immediate action to be taken to support the workforce, writing 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.
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 10 hour shift.
The union says that the vast majority of cranes are not fitted with air conditioning, meaning that in hot weather they become glorified “greenhouses” pitting tower crane operators at extreme risk of suffering heat stress and undermining their ability to concentrate in a job that demands total accuracy at all times.
Unite believes that all tower crane cabs should be fitted with air-conditioning but in the meantime the union is calling a series of minimum standards. These include ensuring that all break times start only once the operator has reached the site canteen; that no operator works longer than three hours without a break; and that a mini-fridge or cooler is placed in all tower crane cabs to ensure the operator has access to cold water.
The union is also calling for bottled drinking water to be supplied free of charge.
Commenting, 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 contactors 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,” he added.
“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.”
By Barckley Sumner