Crash lesson as cleaner takes control of crane

The decision to let a cleaner operate a crane has landed a Geelong company in hot water.

The decision to let a cleaner operate a crane has landed a Geelong company in hot water. Photo: TND/Getty

The can-do attitude of a cleaner who filled in for a sick crane operator has cost his employer almost $170,000 in reprimands, with four of his colleagues lucky to be alive. 

WorkSafe charged Geelong engineering firm Thornton Engineering over the August 2022 incident when it was contracted to work on steel frames for the Spirit of Tasmania.

Employees had been tasked with lifting and rotating a 30-tonne steel frame 180 degrees, a WorkSafe summary stated.

The work was conducted without incident.

The following day, on August 4 at 11pm, the same lift was to be conducted, but the person who would ordinarily perform this task and who held the requisite licence had called in sick. 

Another worker, who was employed as a cleaner, was tasked with performing the duty.

The cleaner had some experience moving small objects by cranes, however, did not hold the required intermediate or advanced rigging licence to perform this lift. 

The employee used two 16-tonne cranes, which were not synchronised, to lift and rotate the 30-tonne frame 180 degrees. 

The lift failed, lost balance and the centre of gravity tripped causing the crane hoists to be dragged into the workshop gantries, damaging the crane and gantries in the process.

The toppled frame fell on the wall of the workplace where four of his colleagues were watching on, the WorkSafe summary stated.

In an attempt to remedy his error, the cleaner then used two extra cranes to move the fallen steel but it was too heavy, causing them to trip out the control box.

Thornton has agreed to an enforceable undertaking agreement with WorkSafe that will take place over the course of the next 18 months. 

Those five undertakings are estimated to cost the company $168,900.

AAP has contacted Thornton for a response.


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