Worker fined more than $4K for Karratha Quarter crane incident

Alicia PereraPilbara News
The collapsed crane on top of Karratha Quarter in 2015.
Camera IconThe collapsed crane on top of Karratha Quarter in 2015. Credit: Pilbara News

A crane operator whose machine collapsed at the Karratha Quarter construction site in mid-2015, injuring another worker, has received a fine of $4400.

Robert Anthony Hoekzema was sentenced in Perth Magistrate’s Court last week for failing to take reasonable care at work resulting in serious harm to a person.

The charge stemmed from an incident in June 2015 in which the boom of a 160-tonne crane Hoekzema was operating near the Quarter construction site bent and collapsed while lifting a concrete panel over the top of nearby buildings.

A chain attached to the falling crane captured the foot of a subcontractor directing traffic below and tore away his boot and part of his foot.

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The man’s injuries led to four of his toes being amputated, the loss of full use of his right arm and spinal fusion surgery.

The court was told Hoekzema, an experienced crane operator, had overloaded the crane and had overridden the crane’s in-built safety functions to do so.

WorkSafe prosecutor Andrea Crichton-Browne said on two occasions Hoekzema had overloaded the crane by up to 135 per cent of its rated capacity.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said the case was a reminder of the importance of machine safety systems.

“This case should be taken as a warning that inbuilt systems should never be ignored, disabled or overridden,” he said.

“Safety measures are there for a very good reason, and disregarding them exposes the operator to the risk of a serious incident taking place, as it did in this case.”

“It was pure luck that the worker who was managing traffic under the crane load was not killed as he could have been if he had been struck in a different area of his body, for instance his head.”

Mr Munns said though Hoekzema was only part of a “collective” decision not to move the crane to a safe operating location or overload it, “it was his responsibility to refuse to operate the crane outside of its specified lifting capacity”.

Hoekzema originally pleaded not guilty, but later changed his plea to guilty.

He was also ordered to pay court costs of $4700.

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