Province doing safety checks on construction cranes in Halifax ahead of storm

A crane on South Park Street in Halifax toppled onto a building under construction in a storm in 2019. (Craig Paisley/CBC - image credit)
A crane on South Park Street in Halifax toppled onto a building under construction in a storm in 2019. (Craig Paisley/CBC - image credit)

Provincial inspectors are visiting every site where there is a construction crane in Halifax to make sure they're all prepared for the powerful winds expected to arrive with Hurricane Fiona.

Staff from the Department of Labour have been at work sites around the region this week to check all safety measures are being followed.

A 73-metre tower crane collapsed on South Park Street three years ago during post-tropical storm Dorian. The crane came to rest on top of a 13-storey building that was under construction.

No one was injured in that incident but it resulted in several residences and businesses being evacuated.

About 32 cranes operating in Halifax

There are about 32 cranes operating in Halifax as Fiona approaches.

Environment Canada has identified construction sites as being particularly vulnerable to the severe winds that are on the way.

"Our inspectors have been going out to sites this week to ensure that the cranes will be stored safely and that any debris or equipment that could blow around during the storm is secured or removed," said Jeff Dolan, the executive director of technical safety with the department.

The department met with all crane operators following the crane collapse in Halifax. There has been ongoing contact since then, Dolan said.

Bryan MacKay/CBC
Bryan MacKay/CBC

Dolan said inspections escalated with this week's forecast.

"When bad weather is approaching, we want to make sure those extra steps are being taken at work sites and that employers are doing their due diligence," he said.

The Construction Association of Nova Scotia said storm preparations have been happening at sites across the region this week.

It has issued a notice to members on its website urging them to be cautious.

Designed to move in the wind

One of the directives reinforces the message that unattended cranes should be able to turn freely in the wind. It is called "weathervaning" in the industry.

"If the general public sees a crane moving in the wind it's designed to do that, it's designed without restraints so that it can move with the weather," said Duncan Williams, president and CEO of the construction association.

Williams said people can expect to see cranes moving in the wind when the storm hits.

"In fact if we try to constrain it, that may actually create problems, so cranes are designed to flow freely in the wind and that's what some of these cranes will be doing this weekend."

Because larger construction sites require more work to get ready, the provincial inspectors will return to some on Friday to make sure things are on track.

Strong compliance

Dolan said there has been strong compliance throughout the region so far.

They're all watching the forecast closely as far as shutting down their operations.

"We would expect they would operate as long as it is safe to do so and when it is no longer safe they would cease operations and their employees would leave the site," Dolan said.

The report into the 2019 crane collapse noted that tower cranes are generally designed to sustain winds of 150-160 km/h.