Company fined after steel roof fell from tower crane

A Western Australian rigging company has been fined after a 10-tonne steel roof section fell from a tower crane on a building site.

In July 2009, Bell was employed by Perth Rigging Company on a site at Naval Base where steel roof sections were being placed on concrete silos.

Graham Steven Bell pleaded guilty to, as an employee, for failing to take reasonable care to ensure his own safety and the safety of others, and was fined $1250 in the Rockingham Magistrates Court on Monday.

He was in charge of arranging how the steel roof sections would be lifted into place.

The first roof section had been placed on one of the silos, and the second section (which was 18 meters long, six metres wide and weighed more than 10 tonnes) was to be lifted onto another of the silos.

According to WorkSafe, Perth Rigging did not have available the necessary rigging equipment to lift this roof section, and the site supervisor offered to obtain this equipment. The offer was accepted, but Bell did not stipulate what rigging equipment was required.

Four three-tonne synthetic lifting slings and two chains were provided to Bell, and he decided to use this equipment to lift the roof section. He also determined the manner in which the slings would be used.

The four slings were attached to the load, but when it was lifted by the tower crane to a height of around 15 metres, one or more of the slings snapped and the roof section swung before the remaining slings snapped and it fell to the ground.

Two workers assisting Bell were forced to run to ensure they were clear of the falling load, and the tower crane itself swung violently as the load was released, according to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the case should serve as a warning to employers to ensure safe systems of work were used at all times.

“The worker involved in this case put his fellow employees in a situation in which they could have been seriously injured or even killed by a huge piece of falling metal,” McCulloch said.

“Bell held a certificate in advanced rigging, so it’s hard to imagine how he would not have known better than to use slings that were not rated to lift the load.

“The case is also a good illustration of the fact that the employer does not have sole responsibility for workplace safety – employees are also obligated to take reasonable care to ensure their own safety and the safety of any other person in the workplace,” he said.

This follows an incident where a man died when the shutter fell on him from a crane 20 to 30 metres above him in Queensland earlier this month.