In June 2018, a worker’s hand was crushed when a mobile piling rig he was operating in crane mode rolled over. The operator was part of a team replacing a wooden railway bridge. Initial inquiries indicate that the piling rig was carrying a load across the tracks when it rolled over on to its side, squashing the cab and crushing his hand. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Mobile plant overturning always has the potential for serious injury from being struck, pinned or crushed. The risk of overturning is increased when the plant, such as a piling rig, is raised in height or operating on soft sloping, or uneven ground. Factors that may affect the stability of the crane include:
poor ground conditions such as unstable ground, nearby trenches and underground services
ground slope in the travel direction and side slope
travelling with a suspended load too high (in the case of a piling rig this can include the hammer or other parts that can be raised or lowered)
failure to use or fully extend outriggers or stabilisers
failure to level the plant
high wind conditions
excessive travel speed, particularly when a load is being carried
load movement when travelling due to the nature of the load or because it isn’t secured.
PCBUs must ensure:
effective planning for the task is undertaken prior to work commencing
when using mobile plant not fitted with a load indicator, a factor of safety is applied to the load being lifted in some situations (note: mobile cranes are fitted with load indicators)
the travel path of the mobile plant is solid, level and, clear of any obstacles, debris and steps (note: some mobile cranes are provided with load derating charts on ground that has a slight angle)
the appropriate crane is selected for the work task (i.e. a slewing mobile crane on outriggers may be more suitable than a pick-and-carry mobile crane)
if the work is high risk construction work then a safe work method statement is prepared prior to work starting
weather and ground conditions have been assessed, ie, locations of pits, previous excavations or trenches that have been backfilled
the manufacturer’s operating instructions have been read and are followed. For older items of mobile plant where operating instructions are not available, operational procedures and instructions for use should be developed by a competent person
training is appropriate for the type of work being performed
pre-operational checks are carried out prior to each work shift
routine inspections and maintenance are carried out in accordance with the crane manufacturer’s instructions
ten year major inspections are conducted in accordance with the Mobile Crane Code of Practice and AS2550.1: Cranes, hoists and winches – Safe use – General requirements
the operator is competent to operate that particular piece of plant (an appropriate high risk work licence is required for a crane and a verification of competency for a piling rig)
a plant service record, such as a maintenance logbook, is kept and readily available.
have a comprehensive knowledge of the operating capabilities of the plant
be competent to carry out the lifting operation
ensure it is driven to suit the environmental conditions and slow enough to retain control in unexpected circumstances
reduce speed before turning or applying brakes
watch out for ditches, embankments, ground depressions as overturns can occur
ensure loads are evenly balanced and well secured.
Since 1 July 2012, there have been 1447 incidents involving workers or bystanders being trapped or hit or crushed by mobile plant. 115 involved a fatality and 981 involved a serious injury. The fatalities include all those notified to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and include incidents on public roads.
In the same period, 232 improvement notices and 76 prohibition notices were issued in relation to being trapped, hit or crushed by mobile plant.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2016, a company was fined $180,000 after a worker was fatally crushed by a vehicle loading crane. He was delivering timber poles to a construction site on his own. He arrived at the job, engaged the truck’s stabiliser legs and began to connect the hydraulic lines from the crane to the log grab attachment. While he was doing this, he had the remote control for the crane around his waist. He had difficulty connecting the hydraulic lines and in attempting to connect the final line he inadvertently struck the remote lever causing the crane to quickly rotate towards him, pinning him against the stabiliser leg and fatally crushing him.
In 2016 a company was fined $120,000 following the death of a mobile crane operator. The unlicensed worker was instructed to shift steel products using the crane. While attempting this task, the worker was observed alongside the crane which was travelling, uncontrolled, down a slope. He either tripped or was struck, then was run over and killed by the crane.