18th March, 2014

Barangaroo construction site fire ‘threatened crane collapse’

The importance of comprehensive construction insurance has been highlighted by a recent spate of high-profile incidents on building sites across NSW.

This includes a fire at Lend Lease’s Barangaroo project in Sydney, where a fire last week led to 2,500 people being evacuated due to the threat of a crane collapse.

On Wednesday (March 12), the multistory crane suffered heat damage when an on-site blaze reached 1,100 degrees. Around 500 construction workers and 2,000 nearby office employees were evacuated.

The fire broke out in the basement of a building at Barangaroo, with reports suggesting a spark from a welder caused the initial blaze. NSW Fire and Rescue Superintendent Ian Krimmer told ABC News that a crane collapse was particularly concerning as it would be difficult to tell which way it would fall.

“Crane collapses can be quite dramatic if they occur,” he stated. “They tend to twist and then topple over. That twisting means we can’t predict where it will fall, if it was to fall.”

Following the incident and a number of other construction site problems in NSW, government body WorkCover announced a six-week safety blitz at commercial building projects across the state. Work health and safety division general manager John Watson said the scheme will aim to target sites that involve multi-level buildings.

“Our inspectors will address non-compliance issues with regulatory notices and low-risk issues addressed with the provision of advice and assistance,” he explained.

WorkCover is expected to focus on a range of high-risk activities in the construction industry, including working at heights, cranes, masonry walls and electrical duties, among others. The organisation said it would be meeting with major contractors in the region in order to convey its high-risk commercial construction strategy and clarify health and safety expectations.

Author: Murray Bruce