On 13 October 2023, a crane operator (‘the worker) was sentenced in the Gympie Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with his duty to ensure that his acts did not adversely affect the health and safety of other individuals.
A crane company was contracted to carry out work at the Mary River Pumping Station, on Carlson Road, Coles Creek (the worksite). The company engaged workers, including the worker, to complete the work. At 9am on 8 October 2020, the worker operated a mobile crane at the worksite. The company had to move concrete covers to a pumping tower located at the foot of an embankment at the worksite. This was to be achieved by a slew crane which was positioned adjacent to the pumping tower. Access to the foot of the embankment was via a very steep road (which was separated into three sections).
The slew crane required three very heavy counterweights to perform its lift. The counterweights needed to be taken from the top of the road to the slew crane. The worker attached the three counterweights to his mobile crane. The worker did not tether the counterweights to his mobile crane. This meant that the counterweights on his mobile crane could swing forwards freely. The worker did not have the assistance of another worker while he attached the counterweights or operated his mobile crane. The worker then drove his mobile crane down the road while the three counterweights were attached to the front of it. The worker reversed his mobile crane down the first section of the road. The worker drove his mobile crane forwards down the third section of the road (contrary to the Mobile Crane Code of Practice 2006).
While driving down the third section of the road, the worker lost control of the mobile crane which rolled onto its roof. Neither the worker nor any other worker was injured. However, other workers were working around the same area at the time. The worker failed to take reasonable care in respect of his acts at work, where: the counterweights were being carried on the uphill side of the mobile crane; and/or the counterweights were not tethered by tag lines to the front of the mobile crane; and/or the mobile crane was operating on the road, or part of the road, the gradient of which exceeded that specified by the manufacturer; and/or the worker did not have the assistance of a dogman for the task; and/or the worker carried more than two counterweights at any one time. The worker’s failures exposed other workers to a risk of death or serious injury.
In sentencing Magistrate Hughes found that the worker had made an honest but careless oversight. The worker was remorseful and that had recognized the gravity of the potential consequences, including the potential for the loss of his own life. Magistrate Hughes stated that the worker, as an experienced crane operator, should have known better. His Honour accepted that the worker had a fledgling business would serve an important community purpose (a landscaping business servicing National Disability Insurance Scheme and/or Department of Veteran Affairs clients) and that any fine would impact upon the set-up of that business. Magistrate Hughes also accepted that the worker had glowing references who spoke on his behalf and that the worker still worked and had two dependents to take care of, which meant that any fine would impact upon his life. Magistrate Hughes also recognized that the worker did not have prior criminal history, that he co-operated with the investigation and pleaded guilty at an early stage.
Ultimately, Magistrate Hughes fined the worker $10,000 and did not record a conviction.
The worker was also ordered to pay $851.40 in prosecution and filing costs.
OWHSP contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sections 28(b) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011