Mobile plant lifting incident prompts safety warning

Thursday, 26 May, 2022

Mobile plant lifting incident prompts safety warning

In March 2022, a worker suffered a chest laceration and internal injuries when he was struck by a steel post. Investigations into the incident are ongoing and have revealed that the worker was part of a team installing a retaining wall at a residential construction site. The steel post had been stood upright, using a sling attached to an excavator in close proximity to the worker. The steel post appears to have slipped off the sling, striking the worker.

Mobile plant (other than a mobile crane) can sometimes be used as a mobile crane to lift or lower freely suspended loads. Mobile plant that is used in this way includes earthmoving machinery such as backhoes, front-end loaders and excavators. Unlike cranes, these types of mobile plant are not specifically designed to lift or suspend loads. As an example, earthmoving plant used in crane mode generally cannot lift in a purely vertical motion like a crane because it is not fitted with a winch. Lifting of loads may present a risk to the health and safety of nearby people. For example, damaged lifting gear can cause load failure. Additionally, posts being lifted with a sling choked around the post cannot hang vertically — this can increase the risk of the post falling over when the crane hook is lowered.

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland; if an incident occurs, business owners will need to show the regulator that they have used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by the primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. WorkSafe Queensland advises business owners to use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in their place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. Business owners must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

There are significant risks associated with using plant that lifts or suspends loads, and severe injuries can result from unsafe use. When mobile plant (other than a mobile crane) is used as a mobile crane, the level of safety provided by the lifting set-up should be at least equal to the safety level achieved when a mobile crane is used. Specific controls are required for this plant, including but not limited to section 219 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011. Business owners should consider using a mobile crane for the task rather than an excavator, where it is reasonably practicable to do so.

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