Recently, there have been numerous incidents involving people being struck or nearly struck by loads that were being lifted, lowered or suspended in workplaces.
One incident resulted in a worker’s death, serious injuries to a second worker and minor injuries to a third.
It is not only employers who owe duties under occupational health and safety laws. If you are a principal contractor, builder, specialist contractor or high risk work licence holder using cranes or other plant to lift or suspend loads, you may also have obligations under these laws.
Importantly, this includes ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, that no loads are suspended over, or travel over a person. Breaching occupational health and safety laws may result in enforcement action including criminal charges being issued against you.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of, and comply with, your legal duties.
Work involving plant to lift or suspend loads needs to be planned. This planning should identify designated lifting areas, landing areas and load travel corridors. You may also be required to implement a safe work method statement.
Persons with management or control of work should consult with all parties involved in the work. As part of this process contractors who attend the workplace should also be consulted.
Exclusion zones should be established for the lifting and landing areas and also along the load’s travel path. Access to these areas should be restricted to people directly involved with the work. When determining the size of exclusion zones, all risks arising in relation to the work should be taken into consideration.
All people who may be exposed to risks from a suspended load at a workplace must be given the information, instruction and training on the:
- risks from suspended loads
- risk control measures, and
- site rules about working near suspended loads
that is necessary for them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
On a construction site, this can be addressed in a site induction. Induction training should be site-specific and cover all potential hazards and risks.
Systems of work
Systems of work need to be developed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people working with a suspended load can perform the work safely. This includes when the load is lifted or lowered and while it is travelling.
Working near a suspended load creates a high risk to health and safety. Duty holders should supervise work to ensure the exclusion zone restrictions and safe systems of work are followed.