In May 2019, a worker suffered serious crush injuries to his legs and head lacerations when part of a drill head on a piling rig fell on him. Early inquiries indicate two workers were preparing drilling components to fit to the piling rig while it was turned off. For reasons yet to be established, the drill casing fell without warning and struck one of the workers.
In a separate incident, also in May 2019, part of a piling rig fell approximately 35m to the ground narrowly missing a worker. Early enquires indicate the operator of the piling rig was attempting to relocate the rig to another location and was experiencing difficulties in moving it when the component fell to the ground. There were no reported injuries.
Investigations into both incidents are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
The risk of serious injury is increased when mobile plant, such as a piling rig is operated close to workers.
PBCUs must manage the risks associated with the setup, operation, inspection and maintenance of piling rigs and associated equipment. This includes:
- setting up the piling rig correctly, and operating it in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
- correctly installing any attachment devices on the piling rig (such as drill heads, augers and hammers) in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
- conducting pre-operational checks on the piling rig and any associated equipment prior to each work shift
- regularly inspecting all components of the piling rig to ensure they are within the tolerance specified by the manufacturer
- carrying out routine inspections and maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
- maintaining exclusion zones and ensuring that unauthorised people are kept away from the plant and associated equipment. Exclusion zones should be equal to the maximum radius envelope of the plant where practicable (i.e. the maximum extension of a boom from any tipping point on the plant) plus, an additional allowance for inadvertent movement of the plant or people
- keeping the travel path of the mobile plant solid, level and clear of any obstacles, debris and steps.
PCBUs must ensure a safe work method statement (SWMS) has been prepared for any high-risk construction work associated with piling rigs prior to the work commencing and that high-risk construction work is carried out in accordance with the SWMS.
PCBUs must also ensure the operator is competent for the specific item of plant. Workers can demonstrate their competency with a verification of competency (VOC) for a piling rig.
On average each year, 71 workers' compensation claims are accepted for crush injuries from mobile plant in the construction industry. Just over half are serious injuries involving five or more days off work.
Since 2013, we have been notified of 114 incidents involving mobile plant in the construction industry.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2018, a company was fined $85,000 after a worker was injured when he was struck by a concrete pipe being moved by a crane. The worker was cleaning the end of a concrete pipe in the trench. As the crane was lifting the next pipe into position, it struck the worker resulting in a fractured arm and shoulder blade and lacerations. The company had a safe work method statement, but it was not signed by the workers or implemented. Additionally, the dogman responsible on the day was not suitably qualified.
- How to manage work health and safety risks Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Managing the Risk of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- Working in and around mobile plant - film
- Mobile plant - workplace hazard
- Safe support of mobile plant guide (PDF, 3.42 MB)
- Piling work and foundation engineering sites: A guide to managing safety - Worksafe Victoria