Fatal Incident ( Not an Accident) in Brazil on 27th November 2013

Last month, Liebherr published more information on the fatal crane incident in Brazil. Earlier, Mike Ponsonby wrote an open letter to CEO Marcelo Odebrecht. The new information from Liebherr also raises more questions. Below is the new open letter from Mike Ponsonby:

Liebherr-Werk Gmbh of Ehingen, Germany, are to be congratulated for producing an Interim and a Final Report into this Fatal Incident in Brazil on Wednesday 27th November 2013. So these Two Reports are worthy of further analysis.

This particular Liebherr LR11350 Crawler Crane was rigged as a Suspended Derrick Boom (SDB) with 102m Main Boom and 42m Back Boom. This model of Crawler Crane is an excellent machine and very safe too with its exemplary LICCON control system. However as this Fatal Incident confirms, even a safe crane can be overturned by the application of an Unsafe System of Work. Please allow me to explain…….

  1. The Final Liebherr Report confirms that the LICCON Data Logger had not worked correctly since November 2012.
  2. The Track Loading calculations showed a mass of circa 2185 tonnes Gross Crane Weight and a force of circa 39.02 Tonnes per Square Metre (Tm2) applied to the ground through each of Two Tracks. Yet this very high imposed load of 39.02 Tm2 was not spread over a wider area by the Application of Steel or Hardwood Mats under the Tracks. All of which was necessary due to the ground not being sufficiently stable, all as a result of Heavy Rain in previous days.
  3. The Ground then gave way under the Tracks while this LR11350 Crane was travelled forward with a 420t Load suspended on the Hook. When the ground subsided, the Crane then inclined out of vertical, which caused massive overloading of Safety Critical Components such as the Boom Foot Pin Brackets. As a result the entire Crane suffered a catastrophic collapse .Therefore as no-one else will speak up for these Two Dead Men, I will and what motivates me to do so is this. An accident is only an ‘Accident’ if it is ‘Accidental’, but to be ‘Accidental’ it must be Not-Foreseeable, like Lightning. Yet here we have a high capacity Crawler Crane Travelling forward on Rain Soaked Soft Ground, with a 420t load on the Hook at the end of a 102m Boom, so the leveraged forces on the Boom Foot Pins must have been multiplied many times over. We dont know what these loadings actually were because the LICCON Data Logger had not been working since November 2012. So by any standard this Fatal Incident can never be called an ‘Accident’ as it was not Accidental, in fact this series of factors was entirely foreseeable for any Director who cared to look, with the end result being Two Fatalities.

    My Learned Friends at the World Crane Summit (WCS) in Amsterdam on Tuesday & Wednesday 29th and 30th October 2013 will confirm that one of the best presentations by far on Crane Safety, concluded that most ” Fatal Incidents are as a result of Human Error ” with which I entirely concur. But that then raises the Question of Whose Human Error led to the Two Men Killed by this Crane in Brazil on Wednesday 27th November 2013 ?

    So on 1st January 2014 I wrote a letter to Mr Marcelo Odebrecht the CEO of Oderbrech Construction of Brazil, no reply was received. This is now followed with second letter submitting the following additional questions….

  4. Which Director authorised the use of this LR11350 Crane without the LICCON Data Logger working correctly since November 2012 ?
  5. Which Director authorised the R.A.M.S. and Lift Plan for this Crane rigged as SDB, moreover did this series of Lift & Travel movements match the Lift Plan(s) ?
  6. Which Director authorised the use of this Crane without Steel or Hardwood Mats under the Tracks, while travelling forward with a 420t load on the Hook ?

In conclusion, whenever I speak to Snr Executives in the Construction Industry, I get responses like ” The Construction Industry is a Dangerous Place to Work”. Which it certainly is with Unsafe Systems of Work like the scenario above. So as Worker Safety is my Core Value it is my submission that the 8 Men and 2 Women Killed by Cranes or Lifting Operations in the 110 days since the excellent WCS in Amsterdam, requires the Construction Industry to completely Re-Evaluate how it manages Crane Safety in the future. Because what occured in Brazil on 27th November 2013 was entirely preventable and foreseeable, moreover it was a Failure of Infrastructure, a Failure of Maintenance and a Failure of Management : Not my words but those of Barrister Sir Anthony Hidden QC when he found near identical circumstances, after Investigating another preventable Disaster, namely the Croydon Train Crash in London on 12th December 1988.

As I have First Hand Experience of a Crane Induced Fatality, may I offer my Personal Condolences to the Family and Children of these Two Dead Men, as I too felt your pain. RIP.

Finally and in closing the Construction Industry Worldwide now needs to completely Re-Evaluate how it manages Crane Safety for the Future, based upon Tried and Tested Industry Standards like The LOLER Regulations 1999, British Standard 7121 and Isaac Newtons Laws, because what is needed are ‘Safe Systems of Work’ ( Not Unsafe).

Worker Safety is my Core Value, please make it yours ?

Yours Sincerely

Michael J. Ponsonby BA


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