Two serious cranes accidents occurred in Sydney yesterday, sparking nationwide concerns about the safety of crane operators and other workers in major construction projects. BWI affiliate the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) said that it was lucky that nobody was hurt, and that the state needs to play a more active role in regulating the construction industry.
“That sort of force could have killed a number of people here today”, CFMEU NSW Secretary Brian Parker told the Daily Telegraph, pointing the finger at the regulator SafeWork NSW and the State Government for its hands-off approach. “Self-regulation is alright if you’re working in an office and the worst thing that can happen to you is a paper cut.”
One accident occurred at Milson’s Point, beside the entrance to Sydney’s iconic Luna Park, when a crane situated on a barge that was being used to expand a wharf toppled into the harbour. It occurred when a large wire rope snapped, sending a attached hook careening into the entrance of Luna Park. The other accident occurred on the other side of Sydney Harbour in Barangaroo, 51 storeys above the city. A crane was left dangling precariously for a number of hours, and an exclusion zone was established below.
Unfortunately crane accidents are becoming more commonplace in Australia. Earlier in the month a crane collapsed into an apartment block at Wolli Creek (close to Sydney Airport) injuring three workers, leaving up to 200 residents unable to return to their homes and causing disruption to train services. Parker told ABC News that the CFMEU were very concerned about the issue. “Our fears are not just for the workers that work to erect these cranes, but also the public.” Following that incident, the CFMEU called for a halt on any further erection of tower cranes on cantilevered grillage until an independent safety audit had been conducted to verifies the structure's safety.
The BWI has recently established a Tower Crane Operators Network, which held its inaugural meeting in Hong Kong this month. Occupational health and safety will be a core focus of this network, and these workers face a range of unique risks in a challenging environment.