On 8 November 2021, a crane operator was sentenced in the Southport Magistrates Court with a breach of section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with his health and safety duty as a worker pursuant to section 28 of the Act. Magistrate Joan White convicted and fined the defendant $6,500. The conviction was not recorded.
The defendant was employed as a crane operator at a construction site in Mermaid Beach. On 7 March 2019, the defendant was operating a Comansa 21CJ290 tower crane at the site. The defendant hoisted the crane’s unladen 18mm hoist rope and hook block at full speed. He failed to slow the rising hook block, which collided with the hoist drum assembly mechanism. The force of the impact caused damage, with components of the crane, including the hoist rope, breaking and falling to the residential street below.
The hook block weighed approximately 290kgs. It landed approximately 5 metres from a worker and 1 metre from an elderly pedestrian. Neither sustained any injury. Minor damage was caused to rooves and guttering of neighbouring residences from the impact of the severed hoist rope and dislodged diversion sheaves.
The investigation by Work Health and Safety Queensland revealed the crane was fitted with limiting devices, namely a deceleration limiter and an ultimate stop limiter, which were not in operation on the day of the incident. The limiting devices had been disconnected on or about 18 January 2019. Had they not been disconnected the limiting devices would have prevented the collision. The defendant had been made aware prior to commencing work on the day of the incident that the limiting devices were not in use and a notation to that effect was on a whiteboard in the driver’s cabin of the crane.
The defendant was charged with failing to take reasonable care that his acts or omissions did not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons, and the failure exposed others to a risk of death or serious injury.
In sentencing the defendant, Her Honour took into account the defendant’s early plea, cooperation with the investigation and lack of prior criminal history, as well as his financial circumstances, including significant family responsibilities and limited work opportunities. Her Honour considered that the defendant acted without care, being aware that the limiting devices weren’t operational, but also noted that the defendant was not the only person involved in the inherently dangerous state of the crane, with one other individual and two PCBUs also facing charges. Her Honour took into account that it was only the second day that the defendant had been operating the crane and that it had been operated for seven weeks prior to the incident without the limiting devices installed. Her Honour noted that it was fortunate that no injuries were sustained and that the outcome could have been much worse.
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Section 28 and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011