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Are Construction Climbing Crane Operators all Introverts?

Standing at the window of an office in the Texas Medical Center (TMC), I was struck by two things. First, how big and diverse the TMC is. Ten years ago there were 42 institutions included in the TMC. Today, there are 54 located on 1345 acres. On any weekday, the population of that medical center is greater than a large portion of the towns and communities in this nation, over 125,000 with 106,000 employees.

According to the latest statistics on the TMC, there are 10 million patient visits per year and of those, 750,000 are visits to the various Emergency Rooms in the center. Over 25,000 new babies and potential construction workers are born in the various health facilities every year.

There is 50 million square feet of space in place and operating today with $3 billion in construction currently ongoing. According to some conversations, there are institutions raising $18 billion to expand facilities and to build new facilities in the TMC and the suburbs around the Houston region.

Those stats are impressive and maybe a little over whelming. Standing at the window I was struck by the complexity not only of the Center, the 8th largest business center in the US, but by the incredible construction underway on a very crowded site.

In particular, I was watching a pair of climbing cranes on a construction site next to Ben Taub, one of the busiest Level One trauma centers in the world. I was also watching the landing pads for the Life Flight helicopters on the roof of the building. There were two helicopters sitting at the ready to lift off and fly to the site of the next emergency on one of Houston’s freeways, the site of a home fire, or a fall at a construction site around the Port of Houston.

As I watched the crane operators swing to pick up a load of concrete and other materials and equipment, I realized that the crane booms swung over the helipads at Ben Taub, making it virtually impossible for Life Flight to take off without coordinating with the crane operators to clear the airspace above the helipad. That ballet of climbing crane and helicopter is just one of hundreds of issues in a complex “build” on a tight site. That is why crane operators are so skilled and why their training is so important.

One other thought that I had watching the crane operators in their perches 20 plus stories up in the air was whether they were all introverts who spent 8-10 hours a day isolated in their capsules, or whether there were some extroverts among those highly skilled operators. In either case, they hold in their hands the safety of the people on their jobsite and even the lives of the pilots in the helicopters next door.

One thing is for certain, the complexity of running a climbing crane is enormous and whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you had better pay close attention to what is going on below, on your build, and on the adjacent buildings.