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Caboolture crane company cops heavy fine after failing to follow manufacturer’s instruction

A Caboolture crane company was fined $45,000 in the Pine Rivers Magistrates Court after a workplace incident involving the erection of a crane in 2016.

In 2016, the company was erecting a crane at a four-storey commercial development in North Lakes when the counterweights fell off it. No one was injured, but there was potential for significant injury and damage.

Assembly of the Potain mobile tower crane had commenced, four lower block-type counterweights had been positioned on the support brackets and the crane's four outrigger legs were engaged. The crane boom was partially unfolded and a total of eight wrap around weights had been positioned on top of the block weights using a mobile Franna crane.

Workers were in the process of retrieving the ninth wrap around weight when the counterweights on the crane became unstable. They fell from the base of the crane hitting the suspended slab, punching several holes in it.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation identified there was inadequate restraint on the lower block type counterweights. Threaded rods were not used in accordance with the crane's instruction manual and incorrect wrap around weights were selected and used during the installation. It was clear the company had failed to follow the crane manufacturer's erection and design instructions.

On 13 February 2019, Magistrate Trevor Morgan acknowledged the relatively small company had been in business for over 15 years and had no previous work health and safety breaches. He noted the company had cooperated fully with the investigation and entered an early guilty plea.

Despite the lack of injury and no evidence that anyone was directly at risk during the incident, Magistrate Morgan noted that erection and operation of cranes require religious adherence to manufacturer's instructions and correct procedures.

He said the potential for harm when instructions are not followed is self-evident and can be far ranging including significant human and property damage. This was the first occasion the crane was used after being purchased 12 months earlier. For this reason, there needed to be an overlay of extra caution.

The maximum penalty of $500,000 highlights the seriousness with which duty holder's obligations are treated under work health and safety laws.

In sentencing, Magistrate Morgan indicated this was a serious breach and but for significant mitigating features, the fine would have exceeded $60,000. He said companies need to take their responsibilities seriously and put in place proactive policies and procedures to reduce or eliminate risks.

His Honour accepted recording of a conviction would have adverse economic implications on the company and exercised his discretion not to record one. The company was fined $45,000 and ordered to pay court costs of approximately $1,500.

Further information

More information on industrial prosecutions is at