The UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has widened the scope of its investigation into the collapse of a dockside jib crane from forensic examination of the crane to exploring the possibility of human error.

The rail-mounted crane at the Portsmouth naval shipyard on the south coast of England toppled over while lifting a telescopic boom aerial work platform out of the warship HMS Invincible, which was being refitted by contractor Fleet Services Ltd (FSL). FSL, a joint venture of BAE Systems and VT Group (formerly Vosper Thornycroft) is also the facilities management contractor for the Portsmouth naval base. Its responsibilities include maintenance and operation of cranes in the harbour.

The 64m-high crane overturned on 9 November and crashed onto the deck of the ship. Twelve people were injured, of whom five were taken to hospital, including the crane operator, who had been trapped in his cab for 90 minutes.

With permission from the HSE, which has responsibility for investigating workplace accidents, FSL swiftly cut up and removed part of the jib from the deck of the ship to prevent risk of further injury from further movement of the wreckage. The rest of the crane was still on the quayside two weeks later, pending completion of HSE investigations, although some components were removed for forensic examination. FSL is also conducting its own inquiries.

FSL services director Marcus Watson said that the crane had been inspected three weeks previously and confirmed that it was fitted with an electronic rated capacity indicator. The company was unable to tell Cranes Today the age, model or make of the crane.

A spokesman for the HSE said that its investigators were ‘examining certain components and also widening the investigation beyond technical matters to explore human factors’.