The Queensland Government has issued a safety alert of the purchasing and use of vehicle-based loading cranes (VLC). The alert has originated from two deaths where the operator of the cranes were struck by the booms.
The safety advice offered by the government is sound – follow manufacturer’s instructions, provide suitable training – but it focusses on the lower order of control methods without asking the hard question – whether the design of such a crane is unsafe?
From the information in the alert it seems peculiar that such a crane should be on sale at all. One of the recommended control measures is:
“Where you have VLCs with side controls, and the boom needs to be telescoped to a partially extended position to latch it, consider making the following modifications to the unit:
- Ensure the boom latching system on the VLC can be lined up by either telescoping the boom in or out. This may require retro-fitting units with a hydraulic valve system that ensures the larger boom section is telescoped out first.
- Mark the boom section with high visibility paint or decals to identify the latching position.”
Retro-fitting implies that the design was not safe in the first place and, in some circumstances, such actions may be contrary to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Similarly, why is the boom section not already marked with high visibility paint or decals? Surely this design feature would also reduce the risk of an operator allowing the boom to make contact with overhead wires and other obstacles.
It is unclear whether the OHS regulator is in discussion with the manufacturers of the vehicle and/or crane over a potentially unsafe design. (SafetyAtWorkBlog has put in a call)
UPDATE: 10 February 2010
WHSQ has advised that the incidents are still under investigation and that investigations include discussions with many parties including the manufacturers.