Nearly 200 feet above SW Broadway in downtown Portland, Alan Jones of Cascade Tower & Rigging can see a number of projects he’s worked on, including the Portland State University (PSU) Academic and Student Recreation Center, completed in 2009.
His main focus from his seat at the controls of a tower crane, though, is the new School of Business building for PSU, working to erect elements of a building that will be a local landmark, mainly for its unique design.
“As the crews have been pouring concrete, there have been more and more blind picks, where I have to rely heavily on the crew on the ground,” Alan says. “We work together to make sure we have clear communication about what’s needed from the crane.”
Alan has been an operator of different sorts of cranes for decades. Years of experience have helped make certain aspects of his job second nature. He knows how to take the swing out of his line after moving the trolley along the jib with just the right touch on a lever. He can judge how far his hook is from a nearby rooftop at a glance.
Those instincts, paired with a great respect for working safely, show how our trade partners are a key part of our journey to an Injury-Free Environment, or IFE.
“In my career, there have been certain phrases I’ve come to recognize as red flags,” Alan says. “I haven’t heard them on this site, thankfully. But, there have been times when someone on the ground has called up ‘be careful with this one.’ I hear that, I don’t want it on my hook. We’re either going to do the pick safely or not at all.”
From his perch, he’s also had to use his judgment about when conditions will allow for safe operations.
“We had a day recently where the wind was really going,” Alan says. “I could see and feel how it was affecting the line. I knew if we moved ahead with a pick, there was a good chance we could hit the active pedestrian sky bridge adjacent to our site. I told the crew and we shut down the crane for the day. It was the right decision.”
That sort of technical expertise paired with the willingness to only work safely has made him a valued part of the crew.
“Alan has been a great partner for us,” says Senior Superintendent Jason Koski. “When we’re putting our crews together, he’s the kind of person we always want to have on our team.”
The job has its perks, too. Alan’s happy to show a picture of Mt. Hood at sunrise, something that you can’t see from the street level of downtown Portland, but something he frequently has a front row seat for atop the crane.
“I’ve been working with cranes since I was 17 and my father operated cranes,” Alan says. “There’s just nothing like it.”