Using a vehicle loading crane for deliveries on construction sites

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the risks associated with using vehicle loading cranes, following a recent incident where an employee died after a crane caused the framework of a house under construction to collapse on him.



Recently an employee was fatally injured whilst assisting with the delivery of trusses to a residential construction site. A vehicle loading crane's load of trusses dislodged part of the steel framework of the house under construction causing it to collapse.

Safety issues

Hazards that may pose a risk to employee health and safety when unloading deliveries with a vehicle loading crane include:

  • lifting and manoeuvring loads of large dimensions in limited space
  • mobile plant or loads coming into contact with other objects including incomplete or temporarily braced structures
  • the operator of vehicle loading cranes being unable to see loads or people at all times
  • limited visibility of objects in the surrounding area, leading to potential collisions

Controlling risks

Unloading on a construction site

Operating a crane (or any other powered mobile plant) on a construction site, including the unloading of materials, is high risk construction work (HRCW). HRCW must not be performed unless a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared, and the work must be performed according to the SWMS. A SWMS must:

  • identify work that is HRCW
  • state the hazards and risks of that work
  • describe control measures and how those measures are to be implemented
  • be set out and expressed in a way that is accessible and comprehensible to the persons who use it

Employers must consult affected workers when identifying hazards and determining risk control measures, and must ensure that employees are trained and provided with information and instruction in relation to the risk controls.

Visual line of sight of a load

The crane operator should have clear line of sight of the load and travel path and ensure that the load is under control. Where a crane operator does not have line of sight or the load is not visible at any stage and the operator requires direction in the movement of the load then a dogger is required.

Exclusion zones

Exclusion zones should be established for the lifting and landing areas and the load's travel path. When determining the size of exclusion zones, all risks arising in relation to the work should be taken into consideration, such as when lifting and manoeuvring loads of large dimensions in restricted areas, or near incomplete or temporarily braced structures.

Designated lifting areas should be prepared to enable the crane to be set up as per the manufacturer's recommendations, for example, ensuring adequate space to set up the outriggers.

Training and licensing

The vehicle loading crane operator needs to be appropriately trained and competent for the type of plant being operated and, where required, hold the appropriate high risk work licence. Vehicle loading cranes with the capacity of 10 metre tonnes or more require a high risk work (HRW) licence.

Other plant used on construction sites may also require a HRW licence.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors.

Employers must provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. Employers must also eliminate, or if not reasonably practicable, reduce the risk of objects falling on the operator of powered mobile plant so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct.

Self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the self-employed person.

Australian standards

AS1418.11 – Cranes, Hoists and Winches – Vehicle Loading Cranes

AS2550.11 – Cranes, Hoists and Winches – Safe Use – Vehicle Loading Cranes

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