Steel fabricator enters EU after workplace safety breaches in crane incident

Employer previously charged for allowing an employee to conduct high-risk work without appropriate licence

Steel fabricator enters EU after workplace safety breaches in crane incident

A steel fabrication firm in Australia has entered an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) on improving health and safety outcomes after a crane incident in 2022 put an employee at risk.

The EU, which is estimated to be around $168,900, will see the Thornton Engineering Australia Pty Ltd commit to the following initiatives:

  • Host two industry forums for students at the Geelong Tech School to help educate the next generation of trade workers.
  • Lead creation of a comprehensive guidance manual on the development of lifting plans specifically tailored for steel fabrication.
  • Upgrade its existing gantry cranes to enable automated synchronisation and train workers in its use.
  • Invest in a technology upgrade to allow factory floor workers and contractors to access online Safe Work Method Statements and lifting plans.
  • Donate $25,000 to the Geelong Tech School to support specialty programs.

Sam Jenkin, WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, said it is "pleasing" that the company agreed to commit to important safety improvements in its own workplace.

Crane incident

The EU came after Thornton was charged by WorkSafe for multiple safety violations in August 2022.

The incident saw an employee, who had not performed the task before and did not hold a proper licence, get directed to operate two unsynchronised overhead gantry cranes to lift and rotate a 30-tonne steel frame.

The frame, however, overbalanced as it was being hoisted, causing it to fall and hit a wall of the workplace. It damaged the crane and placed the worker at risk.

WorkSafe had charged Thornton of allowing an employee to conduct high-risk work without the appropriate licence, failing to provide and maintain safe systems of work, failing to notify the regulator of an incident, and failing to preserve an incident site.

"Workers must be properly trained and licensed for the work they are asked to do, and employers must have safe systems of work in place, including written plans and procedures for how to do a job safely," Jenkin said in a statement.

The charges are on hold as Thornton entered the EU, but WorkSafe may reinstate them if organisation contravenes or withdraws from the EU.

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