The highest job in Leeds - crane operator shares his majestic view of city and beyond

You might say Majid Hussain, 39, can't go any higher in his chosen profession...and we mean that quite literally, because he's a crane operator for construction firm Downing.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 4th January 2019, 7:39 am

You might say Majid Hussain, 39, can’t go any higher in his chosen profession...and we mean that quite literally, because he’s a crane operator for construction firm Downing.

As such, he has one of the best views going of Leeds (and beyond). In fact, from his crow’s nest 100m above the ground, in addition to taking in the sweep of the surrounding city, his gaze takes in Bradford, Keighley, Harrogate and even extends as far as the Snake Pass over 30 miles away.

But there’s no lift to take him to the top and you can forget about modern-day office-based perks like climate controlled air conditioning.

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Majid has to brave the elements and haul himself up the seemingly endless fights of steps which lead to the top.

The father-of-one, who was born and bred in Leeds, is remarkably calm about having to climb over 330ft twice every day, once to get up to his ‘office’, which is a small cab at the top of one of the tallest cranes in Leeds... and again when he comes back down at the end of his shift.

“I have been doing it for 14 years so I am quite used to it,” says the former Harehills Middle School pupil.

“I climb it every morning. It depends how healthy I am feeling but if I have had a good breakfast, I can go straight up... if I’m feeling tired, I just take it steady.”

He is usually installed in his lofty workplace by 7.30am and remains there until 5pm. During that time, he uses the crane to lift all manner of construction items, from piping and steel to timber and even mini diggers and cabins.

The crane itself is capable of lifting five tons to the end of it’s ‘nose’, and something closer to 20 tons near the cabin.

While most workers in Leeds think of a ‘leg stretch’ as getting up from their desks and walking to the canteen, Majid has a vertiginous outdoor gantry just next to his cabin.

He is currently working on the new £80m Leeds Beckett Creative Arts building, a new hub for creative education near the Rose Bowl, which is due for completion in 2020. The state-of-the-art centre will be home to the university’s School of Film, Music and Performing Arts, plus the fashion department. It will be packed with specialist facilities including a performance theatre and 220-seat Dolby Atmos movie cinema, as well as specialist studios for fashion, music, film and television.

Daryl Jackson is project manager for the Leeds site and was quick to praise the team of people around him. “With any job like this, you have headaches but we have an excellent team of experts in their field and so we can normally overcome any problems. No two days are the same on a construction site and this is no different.”

He added that the crane which Majid operates was constructed in just two days using a mobile crane, which itself weighs 500 tons. “It has to have a police escort into Leeds and because of its weight, it can only come in via a certain route. When we need to take the static crane down, it will be brought back. One other fact about the static crane is it’s designed to move in high winds, so you will sometimes see it swaying gently.”

The Leeds Beckett building is now taking shape, after builders completed most of the construction work on the three basement levels. Over the coming months, the building will begin to take shape. Indeed, already workers can be seen above the hoardings around its base.

However, Majid has worked on a number of other iconic buildings around Leeds, including St James’s Hospital’s Bexley Wing, the award winning Broadcasting Place and Leeds University’s Laidlaw Library.

He says: “It’s a mentally challenging job so self-motivation is key and you definitely need a head for heights. The sense of accomplishment in finishing a building and the legacy which remains is unreal. I am also inspired by my family everyday

“I’m passionate about construction. Before operating a tower crane, I worked as a banksman - directing the operations of a crane from the ground. One day, I was approached by a crane driver who gave me guidance and information about his job role. I was determined to train. I completed some intense examinations and became a qualified tower crane operator.”

“It’s continuous hard work and requires high levels of concentration. But we work well together as a team and we’re dedicated even in cold, winter days. I must say its not your typical office box but I probably have one of the best views in the city. Watching the sunrise over Leeds is definitely a peaceful start to a hectic day. Although my head is sometimes in the clouds, I’m always ready for the next lift.”


Majid Hussain has worked on cranes for 14 years - he worked on the Bexley Wing at St James’s Hospital and on the award winning Broadcasting Place. He is currently working on the Leeds Beckett Creative Arts building for construction firm Downing

The crane can lift 20 tons near the cabin and five tons ‘on the nose’

His cabin is 100m (330ft) above the ground and he can see as far as the Snake Pass beyond Huddersfield