Managing mobile crane work health and safety risks

Friday, 10 July, 2020

Managing mobile crane work health and safety risks

After a young worker was seriously injured while operating a mobile crane, WorkCover Queensland has urged PCBUs to manage the WHS risks when using mobile cranes. In April 2020, a young worker was injured after being struck by a lifting chain hook while helping a colleague move equipment, 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, 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 worker. There have been an average of 102 workers compensation claims involving a crane each year from 2015 to 2019.

In March 2018, a business was fined $104,000 after a farm owner was severely injured while assisting a contractor recover a bogged piece of machinery on his property. The contractor used a snatch strap, attaching one end to the tractor and the other to the tow hitch on the machinery. However, the tow hitch connection failed, causing the snatch strap to recoil and catapult the tow hitch approximately 15 metres into the tractor cabin, striking the farm owner through the back of his seat.

The risk of serious injury is increased when operating mobile plant, such as cranes, close to workers. All persons involved in mobile crane operations should 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.

Persons conducting the business or undertaking (PCBUs) must manage the risks associated with mobile cranes. Risk management is an ongoing process, involving four steps: identifying hazards, assessing the risks (understanding the nature of the harm, how serious it could be and the likelihood of it happening), controlling the risks and assessing control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

PCBUs must aim to eliminate a hazard causing the risk with something of lesser risk. If these controls are not reasonably practicable, PCBUs must minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. When lifting loads, PCBUs must ensure that crane operators and doggers hold the appropriate High Risk Work Licence (HRWL), and that crane and sling hooks have operable safety latches. When lifting crane counterweights, the manufacturer’s lifting instructions must be followed.

PCBUs must ensure 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 must not be applied to the hooks by the crane operator, with hoisting stopped until all hooks sit correctly. All lifting gear, including slings, hooks and material boxes, must be inspected by a dogger prior to the lift, with a detailed inspection for damage and wear at periodic intervals.

PCBUs should ensure that management systems are in place to ensure only workers who have received training and instruction are authorised to perform the work. PCBUs must also monitor all work to ensure adherence to safe work practices, including the use of safety procedures and systems, and personal protective equipment. Control measures should also be reviewed regularly to ensure they work as planned.

Young workers have a unique risk profile; they may not perceive when something is unsafe, and could be hesitant to ask questions or speak up about concerns. PCBUs 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 their risk profile, provide information, training, instruction and supervision, and ensure a safe and healthy workplace. Employers must also develop a positive workplace culture. Before a young person begins work, PCBUs must identify the gaps in the worker’s knowledge, and assess their ability to work safely. Competency should also be tested.

It is important for young workers to actively participate in the way that work health and safety is managed; induction and training must be taken seriously, using the risk management process for work tasks and asking for help before starting a task they are unfamiliar with.

Image credit: © Damkier

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