A crane operator in Australia, has been fined A$4400, and ordered to pay $4700 in costs, after pleading guilty to overloading a crane and causing serious injury to construction worker in 2015.
The operator Robert Anthony Hoekzema was working as a casual crane operator for H’VAR Steel Services on a project managed by Doric Construction in Karratha in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. He was lifting concrete panels from a rack and then placing them onto a four storey building under construction. He was directed by the H’VAR site manager even though both men were aware that some of the lifts would involve overloading the crane as the panels were placed into position.
On two occasions Hoekzema overloaded the crane by up to 135 percent, activating the overload alarm and function cut outs. In order to continue he operated the override system and continued. Towards the end of the day the crane’s boom finally gave way and buckled. The falling hook and load crushed the foot of a man directing traffic under load. He lost four toes, broke several bones in his foot and the lost full use of his right arm, following a spinal fusion operation.
A photo from the scene of the incident in Karratha
WorkSafe WA commissioner Ian Munns said: “This case should be taken as a warning that inbuilt systems should never be ignored, disabled or overridden. Safety measures are there for a very good reason and disregarding them exposes the operator to the risk of a serious incident taking place, as it did in this case. It was pure luck that the worker who was managing traffic under the crane load was not killed as he could have been if he had been struck in a different area of his body, for instance his head.”
“Mr Hoekzema is an experienced crane operator with a High Risk Work Licence, but the process he used to overload the crane was expressly prohibited by the manuals kept in the cab of the crane and contrary to the manufacturer’s specifications. Although he was only part of a collective decision not to move the crane to a safe operating location and to overload it, it was his responsibility to refuse to operate the crane outside of its specified lifting capacity.”