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Efficiency is safety on the North East Link with enhanced Franna MAC25

Enhanced Franna MAC25 pick and carry cranes operate on the North East Link Project.

North East Link Crane Operator Shauna Burgess discusses the enhanced safety features on the Franna MAC25 cranes custom-ordered by the Spark Consortium to help deliver Victoria’s largest road infrastructure project.

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Coming out of school, Shauna Burgess knew she was a hands-on person and, whatever she decided to do, she knew that it was going to be practical.

 Originally pursuing a career as a panel beater, things didn’t pan out as she’d hoped. So, at the age of 30, she drew inspiration from her uncle who worked with cranes, packed her bags, and headed to the South Australian construction industry. Her experience in the crane industry since has left one resounding message: it was the best decision she’d made. Starting out as a Franna crane operator, she indicates the practical and dynamic nature of operating pick and carry cranes was something that, simply, kept her days interesting.

“Operating Franna cranes is a lot of fun,” she says. “As an operator, you bounce around the site meeting everyone because you’re very in demand. 

“You don’t just sit in one place and lift things repetitiously; the work is consistently varying and keeps the job highly engaging.”

Enhanced Franna MAC25 pick and carry cranes operate on the North East Link Project.
Shauna’s story represents the growing level of inclusivity encouraging women to take up roles on the ground in modern day construction sites. Image: Prime Creative Media.

Now pushing 10 years in the crane industry, Shauna has operated cranes up to 60-tonne all across Australia, such as being a FIFO operator for gas projects in Queensland and Northern Territory, working in a desalination plant in South Australia and, recently, helping to do preliminary works on Victoria’s Metro Tunnel. Today, she’s operating on the North East Link Project being delivered by the Spark Consortium, working in Melbourne’s North East to help assemble tunnel boring machine components at the Project’s Watsonia launch box. Having worked for over a month on a project that is creating 10,000 new jobs, taking 15,000 trucks off the road each day and cutting travel times by up to 35 minutes, she laughs that it’s nice to be outside and in the light of day again. What’s even nicer for Shauna and her riggers are the improved safety features the Spark Consortium chose to invest in towards the back end of 2023, including a 360-degree camera, an enhanced safety radar and the inclusion of Robway telematics on four of its Franna MAC25s.

“These new features eliminate any potential prospect of people accidentally pushing the limit of what the cranes are designed to do,” she says. “They make the crane safer for anyone operating it, whether they’re seasoned campaigners or younger people who have just entered the industry.”


In the process of delivering the North East Link Project’s twin 6.5km, three-lane tunnels, a split interchange at Lower Plenty Road and Manningham Road and new ancillary infrastructure to support the upgraded freeway and tunnel network, the Spark Consortium is committed to delivering on its Health and Safety vision of leaving the industry better than it was when the joint venture found it. A central part of this is keeping the interactions between people and plant to an absolute minimum; for Shauna, this is exemplified by the 360-degree camera system installed in her  MAC25. 

“The birds-eye view helps take the stress out of being aware of my surroundings,” she says. “Of course, I’ve got my two riggers keeping lookout for me, but sometimes people accidentally end up in the wrong spot at the wrong time: with this 360-degree camera, I can always see what’s going on around me, and I’m always aware of how much room I have for articulation and movement.”

Enhanced Franna MAC25 pick and carry cranes operate on the North East Link Project.
The 360-degree camera allows the operator to be constantly aware of their surroundings. Image: Prime Creative Media.

The 360-degree camera isn’t the only safety feature making life easier for Shauna and her riggers. Also enhancing the operational safety of her Franna MAC25 is the enhanced safety radar that was installed at the start of this year on the back of a bespoke request from the Spark Consortium. Conducting high-risk work in confined environments in undulating, hilly, earthy terrains presents a lot of room for danger to work its way in; however, the safety radar counters a lot of that risk, according to Shauna.

“It’s a really practical system to use,” she says. “It derates the further you push it and alerts you if it gets a hint the machine is approaching its relative capacity according to boom extension, articulation, and slope.”

“The crane alerts you instantly if something feels like it’s about to go wrong,” she continues. “Operating a Franna, there’s so many moving parts to the job, and the alerts and alarms systems  go a long way to ensuring that every one of those moving parts are paid due attention.”

As discussed in the February issue of Cranes and Lifting, all four of the MAC25s were also fitted with the Robway telematics system. Offering the resource allocation benefits of seeing a machine’s idle time and usage levels to see if it is performing as required in its established scenario, the telematics system installed on the MAC25 also comes with an added safety element: if the Franna is in the red zone, supervisors are instantly informed via email. As an operator, Shauna hasn’t faced this scenario – but, for her, it’s an extra safety net that can only help, especially with younger people coming onto the job.

Because, ultimately, for Shauna, the Spark Consortium, and the North East Link Project, there’s only one way to get their scope of work done as efficiently as possible: and that’s as safely as possible. 

“There’s a heightened level of safety in these cranes,” she says, “and that can never be a bad thing, because everyone deserves to go home safely at the end of their working day.” 

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