Safety alert issued after worker fatally injured by steel beams

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 3 May, 2022 - 12:45
Policy & legislation

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the dangers of working under a suspended load following the death of an employee.

The operator of an overhead bridge crane was fatally injured when the jig hook detached from the spreader bar and he was crushed by steel beams weighing several tonnes.

The operator was walking beneath the jig to check the suspended product. The load tilted and one end made contact with the ground causing the jig hook to dislodge from the spreader bar and the heavy load to fall.

It is dangerous to work under a suspended load, according to the safety alert, which said overhead cranes and lifting jigs are prone to wear and require regular inspections and maintenance. If the equipment is not maintained it can fail, causing suspended loads to fall.

A lifting jig has hooks that fix into each end of a spreader bar, and the load is then suspended from the spreader bar. If the hooks are not fully inserted into the spreader bar they can come free causing the suspended load to fall.

When a suspended load needs to be constantly moved, the operator may need to detach and reattach the load numerous times along the travel line. The operator needs to ensure the hook is fully inserted into the spreader bar before moving the load.

The alert also said there is also a risk of an acid splash if a suspended load falls where galvanising, powder-coating or anodising processes involving quenching and pickling are undertaken.

The alert recommended ways to control risks and suggested to consider automated load transfer systems to eliminate the need for operators to work under overhead suspended loads.

If a suspended load needs to be inspected, ensure employees lower the load and lifting gear to the ground, or support it using engineered stands. Suspended loads should not be inspected from directly underneath or within the fall shadow.

The alert also said to:

  • review or modify the hook arrangements of lifting jigs and spreader bars to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of the jig not connecting fully with the lifting equipment.
  • provide training and instruction to employees on where to stand while moving and securing suspended loads.
  • regularly inspect and maintain overhead gantry cranes and their attachments as per the manufacturer’s instructions, or the instructions of a competent person.

If the manufacturer or supplier’s safe use information contains insufficient detail about an inspection regime then further information should be sought from the supplier or from a competent person.