Workers on construction sites are placed at risk of sustaining a various number of injuries but the most common cause for concern is falls from heights. That is why this hazard is so commonly discussed when covering the topic of workplace health and safety however despite the risks, there are companies that are still failing to control hazards associated with working from heights, resulting in injuries and deaths which could otherwise have been avoided.
Falls aren’t common in the construction industry only, there are a number of various industries where fall risks are common, as an incident in West Melbourne recently proves. The accident happened on a dock while a transport company was lifting materials.
The transport company involved was convicted and fined $330,000 after one of its workers died after being hit by a falling beam. Other persons undertaking a business should attempt to learn from the mistakes made by the company, L. Arthur Pty Ltd, who failed to protect their employees by providing a safe system of work and work environment.
A post on WorkSAfeNews.com.au describes how the company was contracted to move unusual and heavy cargo on and off ships at Appleton Dock. Four workers using a gantry crane attempted to unload a 27 tonne steel drum from a truck at the dock. The crane was made up of 2 separate lifting rams which were used to lift a central 3 tonne beam.
The article on WorkSafeNews.com.au goes on to explain how the accident occurred:
For safety reasons, the lifting rams had to be raised or lowered in unison to ensure the beam stayed level at all times. The lifting rams were powered by diesel pump units connected by pressure hoses. The lifting rams would not extend or retract without the pressure hoses being connected.
To allow the truck to position the steel drum underneath the crane, the pressure hoses from the rams on one unit were disconnected to avoid being damaged by the reversing truck. Disconnecting the hoses was a normal part of the system of work.
But the hoses were not reconnected before the crane was positioned above the drum. As there was no hydraulic power to one of the lifting rams, it did not lower when the crane began operating. But the other lifting ram did.
As a result, the three-tonne steel beam slipped and fell on POAGS employee Steven Piper, killing him. The other three workers narrowly avoided being struck.
The accident highlights the importance of safety when lifting loads using cranes. These types of high risk activities need to be more carefully controlled and managed. It should also be supervised to ensure that dangerous practices are not being undertaken, such as lifting loads above people’s heads.
Those undertaking the business should adopt administrative controls to prevent falling objects injuring people on the site. Controls such as installation of boards on the sides of elevated work areas or scaffolds, help to prevent objects falling over the edge and injuring a worker below.
Other safety plans relating to these hazards can be developed after looking at the sites unique hazards and consulting with workers to determine the control measures best for the situation.