Knicely Done: A tower crane operator's perspective

Published: Dec. 5, 2019 at 11:10 PM CST
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Chris Stephen doesn't have a job out of this world but it's way up there.

"I've been running tower cranes on and off since 2007," he told me in his "office" three hundred feet in the air.

Chris is one of the crane operators on the Kiewit project at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, and I had the opportunity to take a camera up the long tower ladder to his enclosed cab.

Doug Welchert of Kiewit joined me on the climb with constant reminders to "take it slow."

Chris operates the crane from his captains chair that includes hand controls on each arm rest.

"It takes a lot of concentration, you need to have really good hand/eye coordination and depth perception especially from up here," he said. "You have to rely on your depth perception to give you a good idea of how fast you are going with your functions."

Chris demonstrated why the slow and steady movement is critical when he raised the empty hook several feet out in front of the cab and stopped it suddenly. "You see how the hook is now swinging all over the place. That's how someone can get hurt and damage can occur."

"Theres a lot of responsibilty and liability in running a machine like this," he added. It's something that you can't take lightly because any time you're moving some type of material for anybody you're taking responsibilty for their lives in your hands and you're operating so you have to be very cautious with everything you do."

Groundbreaking for the new Hubbard Center addition at Children's took place December 8, 2016 and now three years later construction is still on schedule. The project should be compete in spring of 2021.

Children's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kathy English told me when finished it will almost double the space in the hospital.

"The piece you don't see is all the physicians that we've hired and all the new services that we've provided," she said. "Our existing facility is full, so we need the space."

Chris Stephen is one of the many workers who are on the job site every week.

"I'm usually here at 4:30 in the morning and it varies between an 8 to 12 hour day," he said. "And it's become a family tradition with my Dad and brother also operating cranes. So I can't imagine doing anything else."

Knicely Done!