Company fined $297,000 after spa, crane crash through house

By
Updated: June 24, 2011
A Western Sydney crane hire company and its general manger have been fined a total of $297,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after a mobile crane lifting a spa tipped over, bringing down powerlines, crashing through a house, and placing a number of people at risk of being injured or killed.

Stephenson’s Cranes and its general manager Stephen Gauci were charged with breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000.

The 700-800 kilogram spa had been previously delivered to the Miranda home and placed in the front yard.

Two employees set up the crane and conducted a test.

The lift would ultimately involve moving the spa to a height of around 30 metres in order to clear powerlines, the house and onto the back deck. One employee drove the crane, while the other stood on the back deck and directed the driver via a two-way radio.

The two residents of the property were also standing on the back deck, watching.

After the spa had been lifted over the powerlines and the roof, the spa’s weight began to unbalance the crane.

The two residents and the employee ran out of the way before the spa crashed to the ground, landing beside the deck.

The boom of the crane crashed through the powerlines, cutting power to dozens of homes for around 15 hours, and then also smashed through the roof and the upper storey of the property.

The second employee was still in the crane’s cabin when the crane tipped over and could have been electrocuted.

The WorkCover investigation found that adequate safety protocols were not in place and staff had not been properly trained.

Mr Gauci, who had attended the site on an earlier occasion to conduct estimates required for the lift, miscalculated the configuration needed to safely shift the spa.

This error was compounded by the fact that the employees on site devised their own method for performing the lift, without referring back to Mr Gauci.

The load was also substantially heavier than the weight Mr Gauci had used in his calculations. However the test-lift conducted by the employees should have shown this.

The company was fined $280,000, and Mr Gauci was fined $17,000.

WorkCover NSW’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said it was just good luck that no-one was killed.

“The crane was fitted with a number of safety devices, one of which would have precluded the load being lifted at all once it exceeded the safe weight,” Mr Watson said.

“The company failed to have the equipment calibrated to ensure that this failsafe would operate. This is a serious matter,” Mr Watson said.

“The company had already been prosecuted in March 2002 which also involved a crane tipping over.

“This incident highlights the importance of ensuring that high risk plant and equipment is well maintained including the calibration of safety critical failsafe devices.

“Jobs with the potential for catastrophic events, such as this case, must always be properly planned and safe work methods adhered to at all times,” Mr Watson said.

Work Cover Authority of NSW