Crane program fears

MOVES to introduce a crane safety assessment program has raised fears that crane companies without union agreements will be barred from sites and small operators will be locked out of the industry.

Under the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union-backed program, CraneSafe – a division of the Crane Industry Council – will employ assessors to check mobile cranes for safety and ‘roadability’. It hopes to have all cranes on construction sites assessed by October 1.

Cranes that pass the assessment will be given a CraneSafe ‘green sticker’.

CFMEU assistant secretary Joe McDonald has said that “any cranes that aren’t licensed won’t be on the job”.

Small crane operators have indicated that the program could be used to shut them out of the crane hire industry.

One industry source said the program would “cut the industry down to those that have an EBA with the CFMEU”.

Master Builders Association industrial relations manager Kim Richardson said there was a risk that the program could be used to prevent small or start-up operations from entering the market.

“If a crane is signed off by a certified engineer, who is the union to restrict it from going on site,” he said.

WorkSafe requires all cranes to be inspected annually by a “competent person”.

The CraneSafe program has drawn WorkSafe support.

WorkSafe acting executive director Nina Lyhne said the body supported industry initiatives to boost safety.

“But I should say that CraneSafe is not the only acceptable means to ensure that cranes are safe,” Ms Lyhne said.

CraneSafe Program Western Australian coordinator Allan McPherson said the body had attempted to get WorkSafe to have the program included in regulations regarding crane safety.

“They wouldn’t do it so we had to bring it in through the union. The union will enforce the program,” he said.

“We didn’t want to do that because the union only covers construction and we wanted this applied to all industries that use cranes.”

Mr McPherson said it would make no difference to the assessors whether the company whose cranes they were assessing had an enterprise bargaining agreement with the CFMEU or not.

“But if the union won’t let them onto the site because they don’t have an EBA then that’s not our problem,” he said.

Mr McPherson said the program would not be used to block small players out of the industry.

CraneSafe will not be the only body responsible for the selection of assessors. It will provide one member alongside one each from the Crane Industry Council, the CFMEU and WorkSafe.

Mr McPherson said it cost $200 for somebody to become a CraneSafe assessor plus the associated costs for the checklists for different types of cranes.

“They also have to take out $10 million public liability insurance,” he said.

Assessors will decide how much they charge each crane operator for assessments.

Ms Lyhne said new regulations were due for release soon that would include prescriptions for the type of crews that were required for different crane classes.

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