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TYOK Crane Operator Neville Lord
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a crane operator

James FitzGerald

…according to Neville Lord, 50.

Working up in the air gives you a unique view of the city

From this high up, you get to see everything – and I do mean everything. I’ve seen people doing all sorts of things in their windows, where they think no one can see them. I’ve spotted people stealing cars and had close-up views of the peregrine falcons that nest high up on Battersea Power Station, where I’m working at the moment. Oh, and I’m sure I saw a UFO once.’

London is reaching peak crane

The city skyline is completely crowded with cranes nowadays. Soon we’ll have 17 of them on-site at Battersea alone, and they need anti-collision sensors to stop them hitting each other. Despite the top-class safety measures, it’s natural to feel a bit vulnerable up in the cab. I’ve personally witnessed a deadly crash, when a helicopter flew into a crane down the road in Vauxhall in 2013.’

Peeing at altitude is pretty low-tech

‘We’re equipped with special bags just in case we get the call of nature while up in the cab. It’s a long way down otherwise: it can take around 15 minutes to climb the ladders. Getting up and down is by far the most boring part of the job, especially when you’re caught in a sudden rain shower – which seems to happen a lot.’

Amazing views aren’t the only perk

‘Believe it or not, I once had a fear of heights. This job has helped me to overcome that. Another unexpected benefit was that at one point I got quite good at using those fairground claw machines. My two sons did as well and, funnily enough, both of them are now crane operators too.’

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