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Worker killed by falling pool shell

In March 2023, a worker was fatally injured when he was struck by a swimming pool shell which fell while being lifted by a mobile crane. Early investigations indicate the pool shell was being moved by the crane, but have not yet determined what caused it to fall and strike the worker.

Safety issues

Cranes are used to handle heavy loads and, as such, create the potential for serious injury or death. Lifting loads may present a risk to the safety of people near the crane from:

  • damaged lifting gear and equipment
  • lifting gear and equipment not appropriate for the load being lifted
  • high wind conditions
  • mechanical or structural failure of the crane
  • crane instability from overload or soft ground
  • unsecured and dropped loads (falling objects).

Falling objects may result from erecting and dismantling activities, and the way loads are secured during lifting operations. Structural failure may include the failure of any crane component, such as the boom, jib, hydraulic rams, lifting gear or wire rope.

Ways to manage health and safety

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents

There are significant risks associated with using cranes and lifting equipment. Extreme care must be exercised when lifting loads in the vicinity of other persons, including other workers and members of the public.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 includes duties for persons conducting a business or undertaking, owners and suppliers of plant including cranes. Specific legislative requirements for cranes are documented in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

Planning and coordinating mobile crane operations

Planning for mobile crane operations should start as early as possible. This involves:

  • consulting with everyone involved, for example, the crane hirer, crane supplier, engineer and crane operator and dogger and or the riggers
  • ensuring the type of mobile crane selected suits the particulars of the lift
  • determining the size of the crane crew via a risk assessment and implementing appropriate controls, especially in relation to minimising the risk of collision between the crane and other plant, and loads contacting other structures, overhead powerlines or workers
  • not siting a mobile crane until carefully considering if it:
    • has adequate capacity to lift the load at the maximum radius
    • could collide with other plant and structures.
  • using a reliable method of signalling between the crane operator and dogger
  • using documented lifting procedures to help to define responsibilities and approach the crane lift in a logical, systematic way (safe work method statements must be prepared for a range of high-risk construction work associated with cranes)
  • providing all relevant information, training and instruction before work begins. Toolbox meetings are one way to consult and discuss tasks with workers.

Lifting materials

Crane-lifted loads should be slung and secured so the load (or any part of it) cannot fall. To ensure the safe lifting of loads, the following should occur but not be limited to:

  • General lifting:
    • Using lifting hooks with operable safety latches.
    • Strapping bundled loads (e.g. joists, purlins, scaffold tubes, reinforcement steel, etc) together before lifting.
    • Strapping timber sheeting together and lifted in a flat position.
    • Using tag lines required to control loads.
  • Exclusion zones:
    • Exclusion zones should be established around mobile cranes and adjoining areas to prevent persons from entering the area.
    • Those involved in the lift should not get under a suspended or partially lifted load.
    • The size of the exclusion zone should be based on a written risk assessment. Where the exclusion zone requires closure of a public footpath or roadway, approval must be obtained from the relevant authority.

Inspecting and maintenance

Routine inspection and maintenance should be carried out in accordance with the crane manufacturer’s instructions. These inspections may consist of a program of weekly, monthly, annual and major inspections, and should include but not be limited to:

  • all functions and their controls for speed, smoothness of operation and limits of motion
  • all emergency and safety switches and interlocks, including limiting and indicating devices
  • visual inspection and measurements as necessary of structural members and other critical components such as brakes, gears, fasteners, pins, shafts, wire ropes, sheaves, locking devices and electrical contactors
  • tyre wear and condition
  • ensuring lifting hooks have operable safety latches
  • structural and mechanical parts of the crane.

Inspecting and testing of mobile cranes should also include annual inspections and 10-year major inspections.

Maintaining the integrity of lifting gear

Guidance on the use and inspection of chains, wire ropes and synthetic slings is provided in the following publications:

  • AS 2759: Steel wire rope – Use, operation and guidance
  • AS 3775.2: Chain slings – Grade T – Care and use
  • AS 2321: Short-link chain for lifting purposes
  • AS 4497: Round slings – Synthetic fibre
  • AS 1353.2: Flat synthetic-webbing slings – Care and use
  • AS 4991: Lifting devices

Australian Standards are available from Standards Australia.

Check that:

  • the lifting gear is tagged and all relevant information listed (e.g. relevant information for a chain sling includes grade of chain, SWL, manufacturer, chain size and Australian Standard marking)
  • shackles used as terminal fittings are prevented from unscrewing (e.g. mousing or similar)
  • lifting eyes and inserts are compatible and the same proprietary brand
  • lifting slings are not damaged (e.g. excessive wear, damaged strands, cracks, deformation or severe corrosion)
  • the sling is appropriate for loads being lifted, including adequate capacity and protection from sharp edges
  • operable safety latches are fitted to sling hooks.

Where synthetic slings are used, protective sleeves and corner pieces should be used for all loads except round pipe. Although the edges of the load may not appear to be sharp, the sling may become damaged when it is placed under tension. Documented maintenance records for the lifting gear should be available at the workplace.

A mobile crane must not be subjected to a manner of loading or a greater load than is marked on the load chart. Where the load mass is cause for concern, the dogger should verify if the marked load mass is correct.

Before starting to hoist a load, the crane operator or dogger should make sure that the hoist rope hangs vertically over the load. Care should be taken to ensure that swinging of the load is avoided when the lift is taken. The crane operator should ensure the load is always under control when lowering loads, or when the load is suspended. When handling maximum or near maximum loads, the crane operator should take the following precautions after the load has been lifted a few centimetres:

  • test the hoist brakes
  • check the weight recorded on the load weight indicator
  • recheck the load chart.

Except in an emergency, the crane operator should not leave the cabin or control room while a load is suspended from the crane. The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 describes the control measures that must be implemented to protect people from falling objects. Extreme care must be exercised when lifting loads in the vicinity of other people, including other workers and members of the public.

Crane Operator

Crane operators must have a comprehensive knowledge of the operating capabilities of the crane and be competent to carry out the lifting operation. Crane operators must:

  • know the particular model of crane to be operated, its characteristics, functions and limitations – documented familiarisation training can help to achieve this
  • know the information in the crane’s operating manual
  • ensure loads are evenly balanced and well secured
  • hold the appropriate high-risk work licence for the type of crane being operated, and complete refresher training as required
  • know any workplace conditions that may affect crane operation, including ground conditions, the presence of overhead powerlines, nearby structures, cranes and concrete placement boom
  • know proper inspection and maintenance procedures to be followed in accordance with the guidelines of the manufacturer and owner
  • complete a pre-operational visual inspection and functional test before the commencement of each work shift, including inspecting and testing the following:
    • all relevant items indicated in the operations manual
    • operating and emergency controls
    • brakes
    • safety switches and interlocks, including motion limiting and indicating devices
    • visual inspection of the structure
    • wire ropes to ensure they are sitting correctly on the drum and correctly reeved on the sheave.

The results of the inspection must be entered into a logbook and kept with the crane.


The dogger is responsible for safely slinging the load and providing accurate directions to the crane operator on load movement to ensure crane stability. This includes:

  • communicating the weight of the load to the crane operator, where this is known, to help ensure the SWL of the crane is not exceeded
  • calculating the SWL of the ropes, slings, chains and other lifting accessories to be used in the lift
  • taking adequate precautions when directing a pick-and-carry crane across rough surfaces and checking the area for other hazards. This includes not walking in the travel path of the crane
  • providing the crane operator with clear and accurate directions.


A reliable method of signalling between the crane operator and dogger and any other assisting workers is essential for safe crane operation. Failure to implement a reliable method of communication may lead to unsafe crane operation resulting in dropped loads or collisions. An effective means of communication is particularly important when:

  • the crane operator cannot see the load
  • the crane operator cannot see the load’s landing area
  • the crane operator cannot see the path of travel of the load or the crane
  • the crane operator is not in a position to make an accurate judgement of distance
  • it is possible for the crane to come into contact with overhead powerlines.

You must minimise any remaining risk with suitable personal protective equipment. For example: hard hats, protective footwear, eye protection, safety vest.

The control measures put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.

More information

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