SafeWork SA has charged a crane and rigging business and their employee following a crane tipping over in 2017.

White Crane and Rigging Service and Ashley White both pleaded guilty in the South Australia Employment Tribunal (SAET) for breaches of their duties under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

In December 2017, White Crane and Rigging Service were engaged to remove pine trees at residential premises.

Ashley White, a crane operator, was operating the 130 tonne crane. While carrying out the task, the crane cables became entangled. Mr White lowered the boom and overrode the safety switch, resulting in the crane toppling over and damaging two motor vehicles parked nearby.

Crane tipped up on rear wheelsPhoto showing boom of crane laying on ground

SafeWork SA identified that the incident was avoidable if adequate planning and a risk assessment were completed.

The investigation identified that the operator deliberately overrode the primary safety feature of the crane.

White Crane and Rigging Service was charged for failing to:

  • adequately plan for the job including providing a risk assessment to the operator
  • ensure the operator completed an adequate job safety analysis prior to undertaking the task including assessing the site and providing control measures.

The SAET convicted White Crane and Rigging Service and declined to issue a pecuniary fine noting the business is no longer trading and has no assets. The offence carried a maximum penalty of $1,500,000 and had a penalty been applied, a fine of $150,000 would have been imposed.

Ashley White the crane operator was charged for the following breaches:

  • overloading the crane causing it to tip and creating a risk of serious injury or death to others
  • failing to accurately measure and record data in the crane’s computer system to ensure it operated within safe working limits of the crane
  • overriding the crane’s safety function.

A conviction was recorded against Ashley White with the SAET declining to order a pecuniary fine noting the financial circumstances of the defendant. Had a fine been imposed, $15,000 would have applied out of the possible maximum penalty of $150,000.

SafeWork SA Executive Director, Mr Martyn Campbell said, “operating a crane requires a high risk work licence, and licence holders have a duty to carry out activities safely and competently.

Overriding a safety switch is unacceptable and risky. It is fortunate that no one was seriously injured.

This incident demonstrates a serious risk of injury and harm to others through these actions and could easily have been prevented through adequate risk assessment and planning”.