During construction of a new fire control centre in Great Sankey, Warrington, UK a 35t capacity mobile crane overturned after one of its outriggers sank into the ground.

The crane driver leapt out of the crane and a 5.7t lifting beam fell to the ground.

The main Contractor AMEC Group Ltd (Amec) of Northwich was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £9,143 costs and crane operators Leach Structural Steelwork Ltd (Leach) of Preston was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £9,143 costs at Warrington Magistrates Court court on September 10. Both companies pleaded guilty.

HSE Inspector Nic Rigby who investigated the case said:

“The crane overturned because it was being operated, with the knowledge of both companies, in a part of the site that had not been prepared for such activities. The roadway was not wide enough to accommodate the outrigger spread of the crane.

“This failing should have been obvious to all those involved in the planning for, and the operation of, the cranes on that site. Clear warnings were ignored in the run-up to this incident about the ground bearing capacity for the use of cranes on the site. The risk assessments which had been produced were inadequate as they only considered use at a completely different part of the site”.

A spokesman for AMEC told Cranes Today what happened:

“Leach had been engaged on a contract lift basis; its responsibilities included the safe planning and execution of the lifting operation. AMEC’s responsibility was to provide a suitable hard standing. The two companies had a long and successful record of working together on this basis.

As site works progressed it became necessary to site a crane in a location that was outside the original lifting plan, and the new area was prepared to the same standard as the area covered by the original lifting plan.

“However, due to an oversight, the crane was in fact set up with one of its five outriggers outside of the prepared area, in unprepared soft ground.

“On its first attempt to lift a steel beam the crane slowly began to overturn. The driver was able to leave the cab unhurt. Reports that men narrowly missed being crushed were withdrawn in Court as they were disproved by witnesses.

“The basis of AMEC’s plea, and accepted by the sentencing magistrate, was that this was an isolated failing by its site manager to require the specialist contractor to provide an updated lifting plan.”

He added that AMEC sold its Design and Project Services Division in July 2007 and no longer undertakes building work. “Health and safety is a top priority for us and although we have sold the construction division, lessons have been learned.”

Leach Structural Steelwork did not comment on the case.