Author: Yuen, Hou Yee
Title: Mobile crane safety in the construction industry of Hong Kong
Advisors: Chan, P. C. Albert (BRE)
Degree: DIREC
Year: 2023
Subject: Cranes, derricks, etc -- Accidents
Cranes, derricks, etc -- Safety measures
Construction industry -- China -- Hong Kong -- Safety measures
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Department of Building and Real Estate
Pages: xx, 273 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Owing to the nature of construction activities, construction works heavily rely on machinery for material handling and lifting works. A mobile crane is one of the most important and complex types of machinery on construction sites. Unlike other static cranes at fixed locations, mobile cranes can move freely across and out of construction sites. The mobile crane is riskier than other static cranes because of its mobility, resulting in severe loss of life on construction sites or even in public areas. With the adoption of modular integrated construction, a significant increase in the global use of cranes in the construction industry is anticipated.
A comprehensive review of the safety performance, accident causation, and prevention measures related to mobile crane safety in Hong Kong showed that little research has been conducted on mobile crane safety in Hong Kong. To bridge this research gap, this research aimed to systematically review mobile crane safety in Hong Kong and formulate appropriate measures to improve mobile crane safety. The research objectives were as follows: (1) to evaluate the status quo of mobile crane safety through statistical analysis of mobile crane incidents; (2) to identify the characteristics and causes of mobile crane incidents by reviewing fatal cases; (3) to review and determine the critical risk factors of mobile crane safety; and (4) to formulate viable strategies for improving mobile crane safety in the construction industry of Hong Kong.
A systematic and comprehensive literature review was performed to review previous literature, laying the foundation for attaining the research aims and objectives. The review included previous studies on mobile cranes, accident causation models, contributing risk factors affecting safety, and significant innovative measures for improving safety.
A statistical analysis of mobile crane accidents in Hong Kong was conducted on mobile crane-related news from 2011 to 2022. Seventy-three mobile crane cases were identified in the past 12 years. On average, nearly 6.3 accidents occurred yearly (including fatal, accident, and near-miss cases), and 2.72 fatalities occurred yearly. No significant improvement was found in recent years according to the total number of accidents. “Hit by falling or flying objects” was the major type of accident, causing 40 casualties and 17 fatalities, contributing to 56.7% of the total fatalities in this period. A two-step cluster analysis was conducted to identify the optimal number of clusters. Four clusters were identified for mobile crane-related accidents in Hong Kong. The most significant accident group was related to “civil work and road works,” with the project clients being government departments. The most frequent type of accident was “hit by falling or flying objects,” with victims being lifting-related workers. Most of the casualties resulted in fatalities.
Different accident causation models were reviewed, and the Modified Loss Causation Model (MLCM) was selected to review and analyze 14 fatal case investigation reports from the Coroner’s Court. Newcomers to specific construction sites, workers under subcontracting arrangements, and some work trades, such as welders in foundation projects who work closely with lifting operations, were found to be the most susceptible group to mobile crane fatalities. “Load falls down” and “lifting a load beyond the safe working load of the crane or hook” were the root causes of mobile crane fatalities.
Preventive measures recommended by the Coroner’s Court were also examined, which included:
1) Safe system of work, specific risk assessment, and method statement with defined job responsibility;
2) Lifting zone demarcation to keep workers away;
3) Direct supervision of lifting tasks by well-trained supervisor; and
4) Effective communication arrangement and dissemination of information to all levels.
With the adoption of Rasmussen’s risk management framework, 33 critical factors affecting mobile crane safety were ranked by industry stakeholders through a questionnaire survey. A total of 509 out of 636 valid questionnaires were received from 40 construction sites for the questionnaire survey. The severity index analysis was performed to determine the top critical factors, which included:
1) Communication during the lifting operation;
2) Crane operator: safety awareness and operation;
3) Main contractor: safety awareness and operation;
4) Rigger: safety awareness and direction;
5) Crane subcontractor: crane operation safety plan and working environment concerns;
6) Crane operator physical and mental health;
7) Signaler: safety awareness and direction;
8) Crane operator: routine checking;
9) Reliability of crane structural parts and crane ergonomics;
10) Crane subcontractor: crane operation safety inspection, checking and crane maintenance; and
11) Main contractor: safety management and input.
This research bridges a knowledge gap in safety literature. Fourteen strategies were identified to improve mobile crane safety in Hong Kong. These included:
1) Appoint a lifting supervisor to become a regulatory or contractual requirement;
2) Have a clear role and responsibility for lifting operations and develop a safety culture;
3) Involve the main contractor or crane subcontractor for the lifting operation in the early stages of the project;
4) Encourage a positive safety attitude and commitment by the main contractor;
5) Update the regulations and safety standards of the mobile crane regularly;
6) Have a proper pre-planning lifting operation for both critical lifting and particular lifting;
7) Arrange an adequate inspection and checking of the mobile crane, lifting appliance, and lifting gear;
8) Provide appropriate lifting-related training for different stakeholders, including high-risk trades;
9) Set up and manage the lifting zone with sufficient consideration of the project cycle;
10) Ensure all lifting-related operators and workers are competent and physically fit;
11) Ensure suitable measures for the safety performance of non-directly employed workers;
12) Ensure bidirectional communication during pre-lifting, lifting, and post-lifting;
13) Develop a systematic accident reporting system and set up a database for stakeholders to prevent repetitive incidents; and
14) Adopt innovative or intelligent devices and systems to improve mobile crane safety.
Industry practitioners should scrutinize the proposed critical factors and adopt the strategies before mobile crane operation. Therefore, the findings of this study will provide references for government authorities and industry practitioners to improve the safety performance of mobile crane operations at large.
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Access: restricted access

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