Crane company fined for catastrophic, fatal failure

A Victorian crane company has been fined $400,000 after a missing split pin caused a tub of concrete to freefall, killing one man and leaving another a paraplegic.

Clarke Cranes was convicted on Tuesday of breaching occupational health and safety laws after a jury found the company guilty of failing to ensure plant supplies were safe and without risk.

The company had commissioned and fully imported a crane from Raimondi Cranes in Italy which was deployed to a multi-story development on Whitehorse Road in Box Hill.

It went into service in mid-June 2018 but on September 6 that year had a catastrophic failure.

The crane failed and a kibble filled with wet concrete, weighing several tonnes, went into a freefall on the construction site.

Shaun Burns, 48, was killed and a then 28-year-old colleague, who was rushed to hospital with critical head, chest, pelvic and abdominal injuries. He was left a paraplegic after the incident.

County Court Judge Gavan Meredith said a missing or faulty split pin was to blame for the crane failure.

A mechanical engineer told the trial that over time a castellated nut on the hoist rope termination bolt had unwound. A split pin supposed to be inserted through that bolt would have prevented it from unwinding.

Judge Meredith noted the company was not charged in relation to the death of Mr Burns or injuries of other employees.

Measures were available to Clark Cranes to address the risk, including examining the bolt at the time the crane was received, or installed at the work site, and inserting a new pin if one was missing or replacing it if the pin was faulty.

But there was evidence that such an inspection was not industry practice, and it would be reasonable for Clarke Cranes to expect quality assurance practices had been adhered to by the manufacturer, Raimondi Cranes.

While the likelihood of an incident occurring because of a missing or improperly fitted split pin was low, the risk of death or serious injury arising from a failure of the rope hoist termination assembly was high, Judge Meredith said.

"Such a failure was likely to occur when the crane was in operation, at a time when the site was occupied," he said.

"As the incident of September 6 demonstrates, the likely outcome would be catastrophic."

The judge said he was satisfied the company knew, or should have reasonably known, the bolt was critical to the safe operation of the crane.

WorkSafe said the incident and fine highlighted the importance of even the most basic safety measures.

Their investigators found it was reasonably practical for Clark Cranes to have ensured the split pin's presence by completing a thorough inspection.