Crane safety highlighted at CSB, other sites
by Mary Helen Yarborough
A 70-ton hydraulic crane stretched 167 feet over the Emergency Department (ED) parking lot lifting pieces of a metal platform to place atop the Clinical Sciences Building on Aug. 7. The platform is needed to provide facilities workers access to a new air handling system that was installed on the ninth floor earlier this year.
While the crane was on site, patients, visitors, ED and hospital staff were diverted around the area to ensure safety.
While not new, crane safety has taken on a whole new meaning in recent months.
Deadly crane collapses in New York, Texas and Oklahoma this year have enhanced already vigorous safety efforts by MUSC’s Engineering and Facilities (E&F).
Bud McPartlin, an E&F project inspector, suspects that cranes collapse normally due to poor maintenance. He currently is the inspector on six other projects.
Meanwhile, the winter crane collapse that killed seven people in Manhattan was linked to a broken nylon strap used to support the heavy loads during a lift.
Cranes, such as those used at MUSC, are equipped with a computer that monitors the weight of the load and will shut down a crane if the load exceeds its capacity.
“This prevents the crane from toppling over,” said McPartlin. Within two weeks, at least four different cranes in several cities, including Houston and Austin, toppled during construction operations killing seven people.
“We contract out to Limehouse [and Sons] on a per-job bid. All the cranes that MUSC uses for our projects are based on a lowest bid. The crane used for this evolution was part of a contract with CR Hipp Construction. Limehouse is probably one of the better ones,” in terms of maintenance and safety records, McPartlin said. “MUSC has used cranes from various local companies and we have not experienced any type of safety incident.”
On some days, cranes can be spotted peaking from nearly every corner of the campus. Currently, two are in use in the construction of the new Dental Medicine building. Cranes often are deployed to Sabin Street and other locations where capital improvement projects are underway.
“The most crane work we do is on Saturday and Sunday when vehicle and pedestrian traffic is minimal,” McPartlin said.
When the crane had to occupy part of the ED parking lot, which it did five times this year; E&F and Parking Management made sure that ambulances have priority and are given ample clearance around the construction site.
Red caution tape was wrapped around off-limits areas, including the second floor catwalk access; and facilities and parking officials directed pedestrians to safety during lifts.
No further crane work is anticipated at the Clinical Sciences Building, McPartlin said.
Friday, Aug. 15, 2008