Steel fabricator to spend $170,000 after crane incident

The Geelong Magistrates’ Court held a hearing on Tuesday 4th of June, during which the case against Thornton Engineering Australia Pty Ltd was presented. The company was accused of a litany of WHS breaches, including deploying an unlicensed worker for high-risk tasks, failure to maintain a safe working environment, and negligence in alerting WorkSafe about the incident and preserving the scene for an investigation. If this Enforceable Undertaking is violated or revoked, the charges previously mentioned could be reinstated by WorkSafe.

In a serious incident from August 2022, an employee was assigned to operate two unsynchronised overhead gantry cranes. These were used to lift and rotate a substantial 30-tonne steel frame by 180 degrees, allowing work from a different perspective. Unfortunately, as it was hoisted, the frame tipped, causing it to fall and strike a workplace wall. This not only inflicted damage on the cranes but also imperilled the worker involved.

Notably, the designated worker wasn’t trained or equipped with the necessary rigging licence for this task. Beyond this, there was no protocol, neither designs nor written guidelines from Thornton Engineering Australia to guide such an operation.

WorkSafe maintains that it would have been entirely feasible for Thornton Engineering to ensure their workers are appropriately licensed for such high-risk tasks. In addition, the presence of Bluesafe WHS Management Systems, a documented plan for executing the task, and prompt notification & preservation of the incident scene until WorkSafe authorities arrived could have mitigated the situation.

Thornton Engineering Australia Pty Ltd has agreed to a considerable $168,900 undertaking that calls for many requirements to improve its work safety protocols. A bluesafe SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement) could prove invaluable in this endeavour.

Sam Jenkin, WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, voiced his concern over this incident, pointing out its potential for tragic consequences. Insisting on the necessity of proper training and licensing for workers, Mr Jenkin emphasises the importance of WHS management systems, like detailed plans and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to ensure safety at workplaces.

He expressed satisfaction that the company has consented to commit to significant safety enhancements in its own places of work. Additionally, it’s decided to support students and others in their industry to help them operate safely. When using cranes, Bluesafe SWMS can be a helpful tool in managing risks.

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