Why an Age Limit on the YOM for Tower Cranes Will Lead to Safer Construction Sites in the UAE

Tower Cranes have been around since 1957 and took part in shaping the construction industry. These types of cranes are famous for their height and the carrying of heavy load which make the construction process for towers and skyscrapers much easier. If concrete is the heart of construction, then the tower crane is the backbone of construction. Safety is a major concern for these tower cranes due to the catastrophic results of minor defaults in the crane or its parts. So, a limit on the year of manufacturing (YOM) can prompt safer construction sites.

Usual Causes of Failure

Tower cranes are temporary erected structures that work against gravity and wind, to transport material in construction sites. Failure could occur for various causes, but the below lists the most common ones:

  • Inadequate erection of the tower crane
  • The lifting of loads above the rated capacity of the tower crane, or the lifting of eccentric loads
  • Improper bracing of the tower crane
  • Operators not being fully aware of the crane specification or not certified to operate
  • Tampering with limit switches or other safety devices
  • High wind causes tower cranes to lose its stability and can severely compromise its efficiency
  • Lack of regular maintenance and proper repairs resulting in failure of tower crane parts
  • Old or worn out Tower cranes

Age Limit on Tower Cranes

Scheduled maintenance and repairs is vital for ensuring safety and reducing the number of accidents. Older tower cranes need more maintenance and inspection to ensure all parts are working properly. Nevertheless, such periodical maintenance costs time and money which becomes a tedious process for suppliers and contractors. That is why imposing an age limit on tower cranes is an effective step to revamping and improving the construction industry. In 2013, New York city mayor had set a new legislation to limit the age of tower cranes: “New York City has some of the toughest crane regulations in the world, and we enforce crane regulations more stringently than anywhere else,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Since 2008, the City has adopted more than 25 new construction safety laws, conducted tougher inspections and raised licensing standards for crane operators. This legislation builds on those efforts by ensuring only state-of-the art, highly reliable equipment is transforming New York City’s skyline.”  According to Commissioner LiMandri, “Imposing a limit on the age of cranes will bring our policy in line with the reality of advances in safety and technology in the crane industry,”

Similarly, in Singapore in 2006, a YOM limit of 20 years on tower cranes was imposed and if the crane is older than 15 years then the owner must submit a safety certificate before use.

Why UAE Should Impose a YOM Limit on Tower Cranes?

The below reasons summarize New York city and Singapore arguments to implement and an age limit – the same can apply to the UAE:

  1. Less Accidents, Safer Construction Sites: Fatigue and stress are the enemy of metals and they increase with age and loads. Metal tends to fail instantly without warnings which makes it difficult for inspections to detect it. A tower crane of more than 20 years old is likely to have suffered from serious fatigue which increases the possibility of failure. Furthermore, the repetitive process of moving, assembling, erecting and dismantling inadvertently causes damages to tower cranes
  2. Sustainability: The construction Industry is always being accused of destroying environment and contributing to climate change. For many years, many regulations have been established to reduce the negative effects of construction on the environment. Old tower cranes run on diesel and in turn cause a lot of noise, tower cranes manufactured after the nineties, specifically the ones that run on electricity, cause much less noise to the surrounding environment.
  3. New Technology: Cranes with a recent YOM have more advanced technology systems that can monitor operations and detect series errors prompting safer construction sites.
  4. Moving the Cycle: Retiring old cranes means manufactures and suppliers would compete in producing more cranes, thus benefiting the market conditions. Also, contractors won’t be able to favour old cranes for their lower price, so this would remove the pressure on suppliers. In addition, old cranes would go for recycling which will push the recycling wheel.
  5. Research and Development: Imposing an age limit on tower cranes would promptly increase R&D in the construction sector allowing for new technology and innovation to be implemented.
  6. Unfair Competition: Contractors tend to slash cost by seeking the cheapest available options which causes pressure on good quality suppliers and manufacturers for materials and machinery. The older the tower crane gets the cheaper it becomes, which make old cranes more desirable for contractors. Having an old crane from a reputable manufacturer with CE certification and where quality is controlled is tolerable; but having an old tower crane from an unknown manufacturer is quite risky.
  7. Spare Parts: With European manufacturers for tower cranes, you can always trace spare parts from the distribution network of its manufacturer. However, since manufacturers tend to update their fleet every 2 to 3 years, spare parts for used machines can become obsolete after a decade.

UAE is aiming to become a regional hub for construction, technology and innovation. In addition, the competitive market in the UAE would automatically encourage newer tower cranes over the old. The construction industry should implement the necessary standards for innovation, technology, environment, and sustainability.

And with Expo 2020 around the corner, the construction industry has a lot of catching up to do.