A CRANE collapse led to the evacuation of the Clover Centre walk-in clinic at Great Western Hospital.

The collapse happened at about 8.15am yesterday as window cleaners prepared a 60-metre cherry-picker crane for their morning’s work.

Within minutes of turning on the crane’s engine a supporting arm broke, tipping the 35-tonne machine precariously over the outbuilding, which had `10 staff and six patients inside.

None of the window cleaners – from Lingwoods cleaning company in Reading – were on the crane’s platform at the time.

“If it had collapsed with someone in the cage up at 60 metres, we could have been looking at a truly terrible incident,” said Mark Hemphill, health and safety investigator for the Great Western Hospital NHS Trust.

“We’re grateful to the window cleaners who ran into the Clover Centre immediately to raise the alarm and evacuate the building.

“Given its position, the crane could have collapsed at any time and taken the building out completely.”

Walk-in patients were treated at the hospital’s emergency department or directed to the Carfax Street NHS Medical Centre in the town centre until the crane was made safe at 2.30pm.

The Clover Centre re-opened at 5pm.

The patient discharge lounge was moved to the north side of the building for the day, but normal service was due to resume with the reopening of the west entrance of the hospital at 8.30am today.

The blue Bronto Skylift SI crane was rented from London-based plant hire company Orion Access Services and had been used at the site at least 12 times so cleaners could reach the hospital’s highest windows.

It was still at the scene as the Adver went to press but was today set for removal and examination by the manufacturers, who will then send a report to the Health and Safety Executive.

Paul Morris, operations manager for Lingwoods, said he had never heard of anything like the collapse in the 20 years he had worked for the company.

Mr Morris, who spends a week at GWH every three months cleaning windows, added: “The first thing we do before starting the job is extend the crane to see that everything is in working order.

“Something like this is exactly the reason no-one goes in the crane before the safety checks are done.”