Company fined after debris from crane fell on worker

A company which leased a property to a steel business has been fined $75,000 after a worker was injured when debris from a building bridge crane fell on him.

The business pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court earlier this week to breaching Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 by failing to ensure the building was without risks to the health and safety of people in the workplace.

The court heard the building leased to the steel processor by the defendant company had three overhead bridge cranes which traversed a runway structure within. At the time of purchasing the building, the defendant conducted several inspections but did not closely examine the bridge cranes or runway structure. It also failed to engage a mechanical or structural engineer to assess the infrastructure. The lease entered by the steel firm outlined the bridge cranes supplied were the property of the defendant (lessor) and that it would undertake any repairs and replacement of major working components.

Additionally, it was agreed the steel business must enter into a preventative maintenance contract for the regular servicing of the cranes. However, the steel firm did not do so and instead engaged a provider on an “ad hoc” basis to do general maintenance, breakdown, service and repairs. The provider was not engaged to inspect or maintain the crane runway system.

The Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found that on 28 June 2019 a worker was operating a bridge crane moving a large sheet of steel when all three bolts on the support bracket attached to the west wall of the north runway failed and that section fell. The worker was hit by debris as he attempted to get out of the way and sustained bruising, a deep laceration and fractures.

WHSQ engineers found the absence of a column to support the end of the runway was the main contributing factor to the incident.

Magistrate Gary Finger noted there was potential for a worker to be killed or seriously injured. He considered the risk posed was obvious, and the likelihood of the risk arising was moderate with a lack of safeguards implemented, remarking that the defendant could have minimised the risk by engaging an engineer to inspect the runway and ensuring routine inspections were conducted.

In sentencing, Magistrate Finger took into consideration the defendant’s guilty plea and remorse. He also took into account the company was a good corporate citizen with no prior convictions under work health and safety legislation. His Honour noted the considerable assistance the defendant provided to investigators by voluntarily participating in an interview.

The company was fined $75,000 with costs of $600. No conviction was recorded.

Work health and safety prosecution summaries in Queensland are published at www.owhsp.qld.gov.au

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