Falls from tower cranes a safety issue, WorkCover warns

Date: Jan 28, 2015

Anyone involved in tower crane operation must be aware of the dangers associated with a fall, according to WorkCover NSW.

The organisation has released a safety alert to provide guidance for suppliers, installers, manufacturers and users of tower cranes in an effort to reduce accidents.

Falls commonly occur from ladders, open penetrations and unguarded edges, causing serious injuries and deaths. Some incidents may also lead to total and permanent disabilities, preventing employees from ever returning to the workplace.

WorkCover NSW said the risk of a fall is substantially increased if the crane's access system is poorly designed. In fact, the agency argued that recent investigations of tower cranes in the region had revealed fall protection could be significantly improved.

Design faults were identified in both new and older models, as well as across various manufacturers.

How to prevent accidents

Manufacturers were urged to prioritise safety measures when designing new cranes, with a particular focus on providing good access to all essential work areas. This includes facilitating maintenance and control processes.

Key components to consider in tower crane design include:

  • Use sloping ladders instead of vertical ones
  • Implement railings and screens to create physical barriers
  • Guard penetrations and openings
  • Carefully calculate correct ladder dimensions, including width, rung spacing, tread depth and diameter
  • Minimise distances between landings
  • Add cages and hoop guards to ladders when there isn't dorsal protection

WorkCover NSW also offered guidance to businesses that supply tower cranes to sites. For example, the organisation encouraged firms to inspect out-of-service cranes to see where design modifications could improve safety.

Raising awareness of safety issues

Employers must also take responsibility for worker safety, with companies advised to follow a number of simple guidelines to protect staff health and wellbeing.

"Where risk of falls cannot be sufficiently minimised by design, information on the remaining risk and alternate controls must be passed down the supply chain," WorkCover NSW's safety alert stated.

Other measures include restricting crane access to essential employees only, as well as frequent inspections to isolate potential hazards. These dangers should then be reported to the relevant supplier.

"While it may be reasonably practicable to wait until a crane is dismantled before making the modifications, interim measures to minimise falls may need to be developed for the duration of any current installation," WorkCover NSW added.

However, businesses were warned not to make ad-hoc modifications without first consulting a specialist manufacturer or designer.

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