Raising the Bar on Crane Safety

March 18th, 2011

Two fatal crane accidents in Queensland earlier this year have drawn attention to inadequate safe lifting systems currently in place. Industries and businesses making regular use of cranes should reassess their risk management plans and raise awareness among employees. This will ensure higher levels of control in a variety of situations, and the prevention of more crane-related injuries and fatalities.

Type of Crane

Cranes and lifting equipment are essential tools in many industry workplaces, so applying a few simple safety practices will enable their operation to continue safely and productively. Depending on what the crane is used for, whether to lift objects varying in weight or move objects around the workplace, selection of the correct type of machine for the job is paramount to workplace safety.

Weights to be carried and correct type of sling equipment needed are important considerations to make when selecting a crane for the workplace. Most accidents resulting in injury are caused by the weight of a load, with accidents resulting from slinging equipment coming in a close second.


It is also essential that a fully qualified, skilled and experienced employee operate the machine. Employers should provide all training and equipment necessary for the safe operation of cranes, as this is a small price to pay when considering the consequences of improper use.  

A number of handbooks detailing crane operation have been made available in recent years, which should be actively used by anyone involved in the use of cranes. Whether the machine is remote controlled, operated manually or through a control panel, it is imperative that whoever is in control maintains sight of the load at all times. Supervision of delegated tasks should be high priority as employees, as instructions are easily misunderstood and workplaces inadvertently contain many distractions.

Workplace Maintenance

Even the correct crane driven by a skilled operator can be dangerous in an unmaintained workplace. Collecting loose material, cleaning spills immediately and reporting faults to authorities or supervisors are all ways to minimize exposure to risk. Any faulty plants must be isolated, clearly marked as defective and repaired by a competent person.

Installing appropriate signage detailing all operational and safety procedures, which practices are not acceptable or not, and the best risk control solutions is necessary for crane safety. Whilst any part of the crane itself is undergoing maintenance, which should occur on a regular basis, the main isolator must be switched off.


The consequences of improper crane use can cost your business large sums of money and even lives, but safety in the workplace is easily achievable with the right planning, investment of time and appropriate resource allocation.

WorkSafe’s Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Industry Program Director, Trevor Martin says, “It is always more dangerous to wait for a failure to learn a lesson. The reality of this danger is often seen in the courts.”

Mr. Martin’s words go to heart of the issue with crane safety, resonating closely with the age-old idiom, “it’s better to be safe than sorry”.