CICA President Report: Improving safety

Becoming the “Authority of the Crane Industry” doesn’t happen overnight. Like all great things, it takes time and dedication, often through adversity, to gain enough positive traction to establish a strong and respected voice.

Forty years ago, a group of like-minded industry personnel from each state, instigated the first “National Crane Hire Seminar”. This event was held at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast and is now recognised as the first Australian crane conference. It was during this event that it was decided to form a national body to represent crane hirers, which initiated The Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA). This marked the beginning of our national association and was formed with the distinct purpose to provide crane hirers a common platform to lobby for industry driven, practical reform.

Back then, things looked a little different. Our roads weren’t blessed with the modern machinery we see today and there were no modern safety mechanisms such as side slope deration or “Christmas Trees”; our personnel weren’t clad in hi-vis clothing, nor did they have any concept of what a SWMS or a JLA was.

Just like today, however, there were incidents, and many incidents we saw occur 40 years ago are still happening today. So how is it, with all the modern advancements in technology; with all the knowledge we now have, with all the safety regulations that we now apply, could we possibly continue to have the same type of incidents now, as have occurred in the past?

Modern machinery has the most advanced operating systems available.  Pick and Carry cranes offer live chart variations to the operator as the crane traverses’ uneven ground and articulates toward its destination. Modern slewing cranes have computerised the variables of the traditional tipping chart and offer the operator a stronger outcome across the outrigger post with live variations to outrigger loads. Our lift planning programs provide us with a forward projection to hand to our operators to prepare them for site variables in advance.

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So, with all the technology and safety controls designed to avoid crane incidents applied, why are we seeing slewing cranes tip over? And with tens of thousands spent by manufacturers to redesign and computerise hard copy charts into live charts for Pick and Carry cranes, why are we still seeing these machines involved in major incidents?

The answer lies directly with human intervention. Most incidents are being associated with a conscious decision by the user, to place the machine in an override or overload situation. As business owners and managers, it is the responsibility of crane hirers to instil a culture within their organisation which condemns operators overriding the machine. If we achieve this and can demonstrate we have done so with strong and well communicated internal safety policies, the decision by an individual operator to continue with this type of activity will lie solely on the operator. If we fail to demonstrate this at a management level, the onus of the operator’s decision will be placed on us.

Hirers trading with tier one contractors or builders, or even high-risk hazard facilities are subject to constant scrutiny to prequalify to supply these sites.  Often, the standards on these sites are client driven and elevate the level of management control expected on the crane hirer, above a level that would normally be applied to supply the general crane hire market. Yet, we are still witnessing major incidents on these sites where we would expect the increased focus on compliance to eliminate a conscious human decision to override a machine.

Many of us are familiar with a case currently being heard in court relating to a major crane incident involving a modern, pick-and-carry crane on the University of Canberra Hospital construction site in Bruce, Canberra on the 4th of August, 2016. After an investigation by WorkSafe ACT and ACT Policing, charges of “manslaughter” and “reckless conduct and failure to comply with a health and safety duty” through the Work Health and Safety Act (2011) were laid. Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones has stated, “It is alleged that a number of people made several very poor decisions, repeatedly over a period of time, in undertaking that lift.” A verdict on this case is expected to be handed down prior to the end of the year, which we will all be watching with interest. Whatever the outcome, CICA are here to help you; providing the support and access to information to assist you to make improvements to your own internal management controls, if you feel they need to be bolstered.

So, in retrospect as we look back over the last 40 years, what can CICA take forward to improve industry benefits to our members in the coming years?  It lies directly with our ability to engage with external stakeholders such as Safe Work Australia, NHVR; and to communicate with the end users hiring our members cranes, such as tier-one builders and contractors.  We now have a strong voice and presence in these areas, and this affords us the opportunity to drive positive change. Our programs such as CraneSafe and CrewSafe are being asked for and relied upon by external stakeholders, consciously trying to make their own management improvements in the engagement of contractors.

It also extends to the mechanisms available through your CICA membership to make management improvements in your own businesses.  It is important that you can demonstrate you have done “as much as is practicable” through internal management controls to aid in the elimination of major incidents. CICA membership gives you access to updated Australian Standards; to lift planning templates; machinery logbooks; guidance papers for technical lifting and tools for ground pressure calculations. We have released a Take 5 notebook; a valuable onsite tool to help engage your operator to think through site-based hazards and plan controls to mitigate them. These are all available through the CICA office, or your member login on our website.

I look forward to seeing you all in the Hunter Valley for our annual conference, celebrating 40 years since it all began.  Our focus at this event is to celebrate the work of our forebears and deliver varied speakers and timely workshops that will add value to your own businesses. Our ongoing focus is to educate industry, and provide access to information that, if shared and implemented, will eliminate the frequency of major incidents in years to come.

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