Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Safety Alert! Tower Crane Slew Brake Warning
Posted by David Cant on November 19, 2014

construction site and a CraneSafety Alert! Tower Crane Slew Brake Warning

The collapse of a tower crane can be catastrophic. It’s almost certain that the fallout would involve a truckload of fatalities.

And after investigating repeated incidents of collapsing tower crane jibs, the HSE has responded with a safety alert for all tower crane owners and users.

Any major technical problem with tower cranes can result in a high risk of failure.

Or worse; collapse. Especially in high winds.

This can be a big concern at most times of the year, but is definitely one to watch out for during gusty winter weather. And for the HSE to issue a safety alert, it means you need to take this issue seriously.

Very seriously.

So pay close attention… and follow these tips religiously to avoid potential disaster.

Check the lubrication 

The HSE’s investigations suggest that some of the recent collapses were down to a lack of sufficient lubrication in the brake release mechanisms.

This is essential. And should not be underestimated. They should always be properly greased when in use.

A tower crane needs to slew freely in the wind when not in service. Without lubrication of the brake release mechanisms, it risks being blown over by strong winds.

Skimp on this and you’ve got a serious compromise of safety and efficiency on your hands.

Inspect and maintain mechanisms regularly

Always inspect and maintain the brake release mechanisms, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Do this regularly. And do it thoroughly.

Being sloppy may result in a catastrophic disaster! 

Make sure there are proper instructions for use

In an ideal world, you should always have clear guidelines for maintaining a tower crane mechanism. But in case there aren’t, or you’re not sure – then ask for more information.

You’ll need to find out how to check and inspect slew brake release mechanisms. You’ll also need to know about the type of lubrication needed for your specific mechanism, the method of applying lubricant, and how often it needs to be done.

Check, check and check again

I just can’t stress the importance of checking everything enough.

All crane operators should always be fully trained and competent. But after all the inspections, maintenance and instructions briefings – it’s down to supervisors to make sure that these are actually being followed through.

You should also check that the crane is left in free slew when not in service.

Your takeaway points

–       Tower cranes can be extremely dangerous and should be taken seriously

–       Make sure the breaks are always sufficiently greased before use

–       Don’t be sloppy! Inspect and maintain mechanisms regularly

–       As always, read the instructions (properly!)

–       Keep checking that everything’s working smoothly

Do you use a tower crane on your site? Have you had any safety concerns?

Let us know your thoughts below!


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Construction Health and Safety


  1. January 14, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Brake lubrication is very important but it is just as important to use the proper equipment for your crane. Operators should always consult a qualified technician to ensure their brakes are fully compatible and safe.

  2. Vas
    February 1, 2017 at 10:55 am

    How do you lubricate the brake- by lubricating the slew ring with the grease gun, is it?
    “Ensure brakes are fully compatible…” What do you mean- of course they are supposed to be- the manufacturer of the crane is selling them to the crane company which is then handing them to the engineers that work for the crane hire company and they are getting fitted to the crane when the old ones are worned out, how can they not be compatible and safe? What “right equipment”. Very broad comment, need examples…

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