Sunday, November 20, 2016


These days the Sydney skyline is filled with tower cranes, those big cranes with the long projecting arms and a concrete block at the other end, positioned on the top of buildings. 

As I drive past them each day on the way to and from work I wonder:
  • How do they erect the cranes?
  • How do they take them down?
  • Does the operator have to physically climb to get to the cabin?
  • What if he wants to go to the toilet?
I figure that if I wonder about those things, you probably do too, so I did some research and here is what i found out.

What are they?

The cranes with the long arm at right angles are called tower cranes:

These are the parts of the crane:

Mast: the main supporting tower of the crane. It is made of steel trussed sections that are connected together during installation.

Slewing unit: the slewing unit sits at the top of the mast. This is the engine that enables the crane to rotate.

Operating cabin: the operating cabin sits just above the slewing unit. It contains the operating controls.

Jib: the jib, or operating arm, extends horizontally from the crane. A "luffing" jib is able to move up and down; a fixed jib has a rolling trolley that runs along the underside to move goods horizontally.

Counter jib: holds counterweights, hoist motor, hoist drum and the electronics.

Hoist unit: the hoist unit houses the hoist drum, hoist cable, gear box, gear shift, brake, and supporting components.

Hook: the hook (or hooks) is used to connect the material to the crane. It hangs at the end of thick steel cables that run along the jib to the motor.

Weights: Large concrete counterweights are mounted toward the rear of the mast, to compensate for the weight of the goods lifted.

How do they get built?

It’s hard to explain.

Tall tower cranes, that is, those that can’t be built using a mobile (truck) crane because they are too high, have a device that wraps around the crane and rises, allowing more sections to be inserted.

To see how that is done, click on the following links:
This is a helpful animation (the pic above is from that animation) showing how a tower crane is erected.

An interesting video of the parts of a tower crane, how they are made and the erection of a tower crane.

This is how it starts off:

To remove the crane, the process is reversed.

How do the operators get to the cabin?

Mostly they climb but if the cabin is, or gets to be, major high, a lift can be installed for part of the way.

“In the case of a super high rise project like Burj Khalifa (2720′ tall), the crane tower is periodically braced back to the partially constructed tower and crane operators can use construction lifts (elevators) to get to the last point of bracing and then climb ladders from there.”


How do the operators go to the toilet?

As you can see from the above, the cabin is only small and there is no toilet.

The following Yahoo Answers link addresses this issue, namely that they use either a bottle or a bucket depending on whether it’s Number 1’s or Number 2’s (could get a bit smelly if you ask me).

A comment from the site:  “In a bottle!!! It's called truckers lemonade, check along motorways you'll find gallons!”

There is now also a new product that enables an operator to pee in a chemical bag. 


The Peebol is a disposable urinal bag which converts liquid into a deodorized non-spill gel within seconds. The bag can be used multiple times, holds up to one litre and can be disposed of in a regular waste bin. Manufacturers Shewee believe the Peebol is also perfect for sites with no toilet facilities where workers are often forced to hunt for the nearest public loo to answer the call of nature. One crane driver said: “This sounds like a great idea but it’s just a question of whether contractors will provide this or simply leave us going in a bottle.”


Things don’t always go to plan:

Sydney UTS fire and collapse

Melbourne fire and collapse


Not all crane operators are male:

Chen Xiuming operates a tower crane at the construction site of a ship lift of the Three Gorges Project in Yichang, central China's Hubei Province 

"Safety is first priority," Chen chuckled. 
And working in a small cab without air-conditioning and toilet was also an ordeal for crane operators like Chen, especially in summer. Chen said she had to drink little while working since the toilet was a climb of nearly 100 meters away. 
But the girl, who was born in the neighboring Hunan Province, believed that her work meant something to the people living around the Three Gorges area."I feel very proud of what I have been doing here," Chen said, "although not in a romantic way."

Tower crane driver Chen Xiuming climb a ladder to reach the operator's cab at the construction

The operator’s view:


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