Steel Fabricator To Spend $170,000 After Crane Incident

On Tuesday 4 June, the Geelong Magistrates’ Court heard Thornton Engineering Australia Pty Ltd had entered into an Enforceable Undertaking while facing charges of allowing an employee to conduct high-risk work without the appropriate licence; failing to provide and maintain safe systems of work; failing to notify WorkSafe of an incident; and failing to preserve an incident site.

WorkSafe may reinstate the charges if the undertaking is contravened or withdrawn.

In August 2022, a worker was directed to operate two overhead gantry cranes, which were not synchronised, to lift and rotate the 30-tonne steel frame 180 degrees to allow fabrication from another angle.

As is was being hoisted, the frame overbalanced, causing it to fall and hit a wall of the workplace, damaging the cranes and placing the worker at risk.

The worker, who had not performed the task before, did not hold the required rigging licence and the company did not have a documented procedure, drawings or written plans for undertaking the lift.

WorkSafe alleges it was reasonably practicable for the company to have ensured workers were appropriately licensed for the task; that it had documented plans and procedures in place for undertaking the work; and that it notified WorkSafe following the incident and preserved the scene until inspectors arrived.

The estimated $168,900 undertaking requires the company to:

  • Host two industry forums for students at the Geelong Tech School to help educate the next generation of trade workers.
  • Lead creation of a comprehensive guidance manual on the development of lifting plans specifically tailored for steel fabrication.
  • Upgrade its existing gantry cranes to enable automated synchronisation and train workers in its use.
  • Invest in a technology upgrade to allow factory floor workers and contractors to access online Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and lifting plans.
  • Donate $25,000 to the Geelong Tech School to support specialty programs.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Sam Jenkin said the incident could have had a tragic outcome.

“It is absolutely vital for workers to be properly trained and licensed for the work they are asked to do and that employers have safe systems of work in place, including written plans and procedures for how to do a job safely,” Mr Jenkin said.

“It is pleasing to see that this company has since agreed to commit to important safety improvements in its own workplace, as well as supporting students and others in the industry to operate safely.”

When using cranes, measures to manage the risks include:

  • Selecting the proper crane and lifting equipment for the task, size and weight of the load.
  • Ensuring cranes are maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and requirements, and operated within their design parameters.
  • Checking that crane operators and persons connecting loads have the skills, training and licences to operate safely.
  • Creating and adhering to safe systems of work and ensuring all workers are properly trained and competent before commencing the task.
  • Considering environmental factors such as weather, ground bearing capacity, overhead and underground services such as power lines and pipes/drains, and ensuring non-essential persons are excluded from the area of operation.
  • For construction work, ensuring a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is created and adhered to.

/Public Release. View in full here.