In April 2020, a young worker was injured after being struck by a lifting chain hook while helping a colleague move equipment. They were using a crane in a storage yard.
It appears one of the hooks on the lifting chain was not correctly positioned on the load. With tension on the chain, it's believed the worker attempted to knock the sling hook so that it would move into the correct position. However, the sling hook detached from the load and struck the young worker.
These findings are not yet confirmed and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.
Preventing a similar incident
The risk of serious injury is increased when mobile plant, such as cranes, operate close to workers. All persons involved in mobile crane operations must clearly understand their responsibilities for the safety of each lift. Extreme care is needed when lifting loads close to others, including fellow workers and members of the public.
The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage risks associated with mobile cranes. Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps:
- Identify hazards - find out what could cause harm.
- Assess risks - understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.
- Control risks - implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
- Review - assess control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
You must always aim to eliminate a hazard causing the risk with something of lesser risk. If these controls are not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. In the case of lifting loads you must ensure that:
- Crane operators and doggers hold the appropriate High Risk Work Licence (HRWL).
- Crane and sling hooks have operable safety latches.
- When lifting crane counterweights, follow the crane manufacturer's lifting instructions.
- Crane and sling hooks are fully engaged in lifting lugs or back-hooked in accordance with tried and tested slinging practice.
- If the hooks are not sitting correctly, tension is not applied to the hooks by the crane operator (i.e. hoisting is stopped until all hooks sit correctly).
- All lifting gear, including slings, hooks and material boxes, is inspected by a dogger prior to the lift and has a detailed inspection for damage and wear at periodic intervals (i.e. for chain slings not exceeding 12 months).
PCBUs should ensure that management systems are in place to:
- ensure only those workers who have received training and instruction are authorised to carry out the work
- sufficiently monitor all work to ensure safe work practices are being adhered to, including the use of all safety procedures and systems and personal protective equipment.
The control measures that you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.
Young workers have a unique risk profile which means:
- they may not perceive when something is unsafe
- they are often hesitant to ask questions or speak up about concerns
- it is important to understand the factors that can impact their health and safety.
PCBU's must ensure the work environment and the way young employees do their job is safe and healthy, regardless of the type and terms of their employment. This includes protecting young workers from both physical and psychological workplace hazards. Employers of young workers should:
- understand young workers' risk profile
- ensure a safe and healthy workplace
- provide information, training, instruction and supervision
- develop a positive workplace culture.
Consider the tasks you give to new and young workers given their skills, abilities and experience. Before a young person begins work, a PCBU should identify the gaps in the worker's knowledge and assess their ability to work safely. Competency should be tested. It is not sufficient to accept a young worker's assurance that he or she is experienced and competent.
It's important for young workers to actively participate in the way that work health and safety is managed. This means taking induction and training seriously, using the risk management process for work tasks and asking for help before starting a task they're not familiar with or comfortable carrying out.
From 2015 to 2019, there have been on average 102 workers' compensation claims accepted each year involving a crane.
Prosecutions and compliance
In March 2018, a business was fined $104,000 after a farm owner was severely injured. He had been assisting a contractor recover a bogged piece of machinery on his property. After an unsuccessful attempt with a chain, a snatch strap was used. The contractor attached one end of the snatch strap to the tractor and the other to the tow hitch on the machinery. Sadly, the tow hitch connection failed, causing the snatch strap to recoil. The tow hitch was catapulted approximately 15m into the tractor cabin, striking the farm owner through the back of his seat.
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Mobile crane Code of Practice 2006 (PDF, 1.34 MB)
- Safe operation of mobile cranes (PDF, 0.22 MB)
- Young workers
- Young worker toolkit (PDF, 4.13 MB)