Burnaby crane incident incites calls for improved construction safety

While WorkSafeBC investigates an incident involving a construction crane in Burnaby last Friday, industry experts call for stricter regulations when it comes to the assembling and dismantling of tower cranes. Cecilia Hua reports.

By Cecilia Hua and Pippa Norman

An incident involving a construction crane on top of a Burnaby high-rise forced the closure of a busy intersection for hours on Friday.

WorkSafe BC issued a stop-work order immediately, after part of a crane involved with the dismantling of a tower crane failed and was left hanging over Lougheed Highway.

The cause of the incident is currently under investigation, WorkSafe BC says, and no injuries have been reported.

Meanwhile, the International Union of Operating Engineers is pushing for stricter regulations and training for crane operators, citing the deadly construction accident in Kelowna in July 2021 that killed five people. The dismantling of a crane was also involved in that incident.

Josh Towsley, Assistant Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers
Josh Towsley, Assistant Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers. (CityNews Image)

According to Josh Towsley, assistant business manager with the union, everyone is lucky Friday’s incident didn’t have a more sinister result.

“The piece that was hanging was hanging very precariously, had that fallen and hit part of the building on the way down, it could have landed in the street,” Towsley said.

With the number of construction projects happening around B.C., Towsley says about 350 tower cranes are erected or dismantled every year.

“There’s a lot of risk that is associated with this work. Making sure there’s competent people doing that work is vitally important,” he said.

According to WorkSafe BC’s website, the developer behind this project, Onni Contracting LTD, has been fined three times prior to this recent incident. The most recent was in March 2023, which involved a grinding disc that fell 35 stories and struck a worker.

“What really needs to change with some contractors is the culture around safety, their work places and making sure that corners aren’t being cut just to save a few bucks,” Towsley said.

The union has been working with WorkSafe BC to reform tower crane safety, with suggestions like full lane closures during set up and take down, and permit extensions to reduce pressure on workers.

Onni Contracting has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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