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No licence needed to operate cranes

The disaster at the Sahar elevated road project site in Andheri merits some focussing on the stringency - rather, its glaring want - with which a licence to operate heavy vehicle can be had. Chew on this: One doesn’t need a specific skill-set; one need not be over 21 years; nor does one need have any technical know-how, in order to get a licence to drive and operate a heavy-duty crane.

Bridge Collapse
Three labourers were killed and six gravely injured when a giant concrete girder collapsed on them at the site of the Sahar elevated road project. Pic/Satyajit Desai

The lethal mishap occurred after a crane let slip a mammoth girder while it was being launched. Experts commented on the loose licensing norms, saying that at a time the state government is gung-ho about erecting mega structures, it would be helpful, even lifesaving, if rules are tightened and basic criteria are not blatantly ignored while issuing licences and hiring operators.

Light experience
Officials from the Regional Transport Office (RTO) said there are no separate licences issued for driving heavy commercial vehicles and operating cranes, which are covered under the ‘special equipment vehicle’ category.

Sahar project
The concrete girder was being installed by a crane in a section of the Sahar elevated road project near the Mumbai International airport when it came crashing down on Wednesday night, killing three labourers and injuring another six. Pic/Satyajit Desai

“Anyone who is 21 years or above can apply for a driving licence for heavy vehicles, if they have a year’s experience of driving a light motor vehicle. No separate licence is issued for operating cranes. The requisite training is imparted by the hiring firms,” said an RTO official.

Sources revealed that once the operators are trained - if a company bothers with such a thing at all - then they need only to give a test at the RTO. Said a senior transport official, “There is every need to increase the minimum age for handling such special equipment like cranes to a minimum of five years before allowing them to handle them.”

It is likely that the Andheri RTO will be asked by the investigators to check the mangled remains of the crane, registered as a special equipment vehicle. “Action can be taken under the Motor Vehicles Act if the crane had clashed with another vehicle or object while being operated. In this case, we can only inspect the crane, which was apparently functioning until the incident took place,” said an Andheri RTO official.

‘We follow rules’
Officials from L&T - the sub-contractor commissioned by the main contractor Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) for the stretch of the project where the mishap occurred - claimed that all their equipment operators are well trained and qualified, and standard procedures duly followed. The officials said they wouldn’t compromise on safety, or recruitment criteria, especially when expensive equipment is at work.

“All equipment operators on our sites are trained and certified before being put on the job. Necessary safety measures are practised at our project sites,” said Deepak Morada, chief spokesperson, L&T.

Crane mishaps

Wadala bridge
July 2012:
A construction labourer died and eight were injured after a girder collapsed on the construction site of the Eastern Freeway at Shanti Nagar in Wadala 
April 2012: A crane on the Metro construction site near Sarvodaya Hospital tilted and fell on a nearby compound wall. There were no casualties 
October 2011: A girder collapsed on the Eastern Freeway construction site near Mysore colony, when an 80mm bolt on the crane came off, leading the girder to collapse. No one was injured 
1996: One of the cranes collapsed inside Wankhede Stadium just before the Cricket World Cup 2011. It had been brought to hoist floodlights and other electrical equipment on the premises 

Currey Road
September 2011:
Part of a crane collapsed on a residential building at Currey Road, injuring six people

Previous incidents

July 2012: One labourer died and eight were injured after a girder collapsed on the construction site of the Eastern Freeway at Shanti Nagar in Wadala. 
April 2012: A crane on the Metro construction site near Sarvodaya Hospital tilted and fell on a nearby compound wall.
October 2011: A girder collapsed on the Eastern Freeway construction site near Mysore colony when an 80mm bolt on the crane came off due to which the girder collapsed.

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