Death prompts remote control crane warning

A coroner has warned about the safety of remote-controlled loader cranes after a father of two was crushed to death.

Bolton-born driver Michael Harrison died in February 2021, aged 42, after the crane arm he was using to unload scaffolding came down on him.

Harrison had been operating the loader crane using a remote control worn over his head and across his chest. The crane arm had been able to move unintentionally because the remote control had not been isolated during unloading, the coroner concluded.

Coroner Jacqueline Devonish warned about the safety of the remote control system in a Prevention of Future Deaths report, produced following the inquest’s conclusion this month.

Devonish said it had become “evident” during the inquest that the crane arm had “no obvious audible sound” while Harrison was operating it.

The managing director at Harrison’s employer 3D Scaffolding told the inquest he had written a letter before the incident asking for an audible sound and asking for a two-handed remote operation design, following a safety review of the remote control system. It is unclear whether the letter was written to a manufacturer, plant-hire company or other party.

The accident took place at Anwyl Homes’ Victoria Mills development in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire. Harrison’s death prompted a joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Cheshire Constabulary, which concluded that no offences had been committed.

The coroner said Harrison had operated a “Hiab truck” and “Hiab arm”, adding that the “Hiab design” lacked audible sound.

However, the manufacturer told Construction News that a “Hiab crane was not involved in this incident”, adding that loader cranes are often referred to as “Hiab cranes” just as vacuum cleaners are referred to as “Hoovers”. 

Devonish’s report was addressed to the Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers (ALLMI), a lorry loader trade body set up at the request of HSE nearly half a century ago. ALLMI has until 8 August to respond to the findings. HSE, Cheshire Constabulary and a representative of 3D Scaffolding also received the report, as did three unnamed recipients.

3D Scaffolding was contacted for comment.

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