Crane operator fined for overloading crane and injuring worker

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A crane operator has been fined $4400 (and ordered to pay $4700 in costs) after he overloaded a crane and injured another worker when the crane collapsed.

Robert Anthony Hoekzema pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting another person and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court on Thursday.

In June 2015, Mr Hoekzema was employed as a casual crane operator under the direction of H’VAR Steel Services Pty Ltd on a project managed by Doric Construction.

A four-storey commercial building was under construction in Karratha, and concrete panels were being picked up from a rack using a crane and lifted over the top of the building and secured into place.

Mr Hoekzema was operating the crane, and was aware that some of the lifts he was performing would be beyond the specific maximum capacity of the crane.

He was directed by the H’VAR site manager to use the crane to lift the panels, even though both men were aware that lifting some of the panels from where the crane was located meant that the lifts would be beyond the crane’s maximum capacity for part of the duration of the lift.

On two occasions, Mr Hoekzema overloaded the crane up to 135 per cent of its lifting capacity, activating a continuous alarm in the crane cabin and stopping the operation of the crane.  Mr Hoekzema overrode the safety measures built into the crane.

Towards the end of the day, the overloaded crane boom bent and collapsed while reaching over the building.  The cable wire attached to the boom swung down and crushed the foot of a worker who was managing traffic under the path of the concrete slab.

The worker suffered serious injuries including the loss of four toes, multiple foot fractures and extensive lacerations.  The force of the cable knocked him to the ground, resulting in the need for spinal fusion and loss of the full use of his right arm.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said today the case was a timely reminder of the importance of using the safety systems of machinery.

“This case should be taken as a warning that inbuilt systems should never be ignored, disabled or overridden,” Mr Munns said.

“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 cabin 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.”

Media Contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only).
Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

Media release
11 Dec 2018

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