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                        3 min read

                        Crane company fined $300,000 in fatal accident

                        Crane company fined $300,000 in fatal accident

                        On Friday March 25, RAR Cranes Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $300,000 after pleading guilty to a re-particularised category-2 breach of the ACT Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

                        The verdict comes after the principal contractor, Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd, was fined $150,000 in November last year over the same incident.

                        What happened?

                        The incident occurred on the evening of August 4, 2016 at Multiplex’s University of Canberra construction site. RAR worker Michael Watts was using a pick-and-carry crane to move a 10.3-tonne generator when the crane overturned. The boom struck and killed 62-year-old tower crane operator, Herman Holtz, who was helping steady the generator at the time.

                        Previous charges related to incident

                        • Michael Watts was charged with manslaughter under the ACT Crimes Act 1900 in early 2018.

                        • Multiplex, a Multiplex safety officer, a Multiplex supervisor, RAR and an RAR dogman were all charged with reckless WHS conduct.

                        • Multiplex’s CEO, a Multiplex site manager and RAR’s managing director were charged with category-2 breaches.

                        • Watts was handed a suspended prison sentence in April 2020 after subsequently pleading guilty to reckless conduct instead of manslaughter.

                        • RAR and Multiplex pleaded guilty to downgraded breaches while the charges against all the other individuals were dropped.


                        WHS breaches

                        The court found RAR breached its WHS duties by:

                        • Failing to properly assess the suitability of the pick-and-carry crane for the high-risk lift.

                        • Operating the crane outside its safety limitations and with its alarms operating across uneven terrain.

                        • Failing to cease operations until, for example, more appropriate machinery was available for the job.

                        • Failing to ensure Watts filled out a site-specific risk assessment before commencing every job.

                        • Failing to instruct Watts on how to use the pick-and-carry crane or install its “superlift” counterweight.

                        • Failing to properly train Watts’s dogman on how to rig loads as close to the ground as possible.

                        • Operating the crane on a side slope with an angle that exceeded its five-degree capacity.


                        ACT Chief Industrial Magistrate Lorraine Walker commented on the incident, “This was a situation in which the expert subcontractor [RAR] was required to say no to the demand of the principal, even at the risk of losing work, to ensure worker safety. RAR failed to properly assess the suitability of the crane for the job.

                        “Compounding this, RAR sent an otherwise competent worker to perform what had been identified by its own employees as a tricky job, without appropriate training on the equipment to be used, to an unfamiliar worksite in the dark at the end of a long day of work in order to meet the demands of the principal contractor,” continued the Chief Industrial Magistrate.

                        While it was revealed that  Multiplex applied “some pressure” on RAR to use the smaller crane, the Chief Industrial Magistrate determined that RAR’s offending was more serious, stating:  “[As] the specialist subcontractor, [RAR] was best placed to assess the viability of conducting the work required safely, and to provide properly trained personnel to do so, or indeed to refuse to do so if the conditions were not appropriate.”


                        RAR’s response to the fatality

                        In response to the incident, RAR created the role of lifting supervisor to help crane operators perform difficult lifts. Additionally, RAR improved its training and signage on equipment to encourage staff to refuse to undertake unsafe work.


                        Don’t wait until it’s too late

                        Preventing an incident like this is always better than responding to it. Ensuring adequate safety processes were in place and adequate training had been provided, this incident could have been entirely avoided. 

                        When it comes to workplace health and safety you cannot be too careful, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. At Plant Assessor, we have helped thousands of organisations streamline their machinery safety processes and raise their level of compliance to industry standards.

                        If you have any doubts about your current safety systems, we encourage you to take our safety systems health check. It walks you through each area of your safety systems and shows you how to improve. It’s free and simple to complete.

                        Expert advice is on hand

                        To find out more about managing machinery safety and compliance processes efficiently and effectively contact the Plant Assessor team on 1300 728 852 or


                        Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information. Please contact us for further assistance.

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