Tower cranes

Tower cranes are an indispensable part of modern high rise construction, however, while reliable and robust, they carry significant hazards.

Image of tower cranes on high rise construction site

These hazards include:

  • falling objects
  • structural collapse
  • contact with objects, including powerlines
  • difficult access for treating or rescuing injured workers.

Crane owners, others with management or control of the crane, those performing maintenance and onsite managers  (usually the principal contractor) have obligations under the work health and safety legislation. The following information outlines these obligations and provides guidance.

Tower crane safety campaign 2019

Over 2019, SafeWork NSW inspectors will be undertaking focused crane checks on every site they visit where a tower crane is in operation. Inspectors will check compliance and talk to supervisors, operators and doggers about safe slinging and load movements to ensure the protection of workers and the public.

To ensure safe slinging and load movement, you should:

  • avoid lifting or moving suspended loads over the heads of workers or the public
  • have appropriate controls in place to manage the risks of falling objects
  • ensure loading zones are protected from unauthorised access
  • check operators, doggers and riggers hold the appropriate high risk work licence
  • ensure inexperienced or new operators are adequately supported or supervised.

For further information contact us on 13 10 50.

General requirements

Item and design registration

Plant with a high level risk of harm associated with its operation, use or maintenance, must be registered by the owner, lessee or controller of the plant.  Tower cranes require both design and item registration.

Inspection and maintenance

There are specific laws regarding the major inspection and maintenance of tower cranes.

High risk work licence

A high risk work licence is required for certain types of work, including tower crane operation.

Safety alerts

Crackdown on crane operators

SafeWork NSW inspectors will take part in a crackdown on crane operators on construction sites across the state as part of a six-month blitz aimed at increasing safety in the industry.

Risk of falls from tower cranes

This alert provides guidance to designers, manufacturers, suppliers, installers, operators, and persons with control of sites on how to minimise the risk of falls when using tower cranes.

Erecting, climbing and dismantling tower cranes

This alert highlights the risks associated with erecting, climbing or dismantling a tower crane and the action required by all PCBUs involved in this work.

Position paper

This position paper outlines the expectations in relation to the matters raised by the Coroners in relation to the tower crane fire and collapse at Broadway in 2012 and the death of a crane operator at North Sydney in 2014.

Guidance material

Guide to tower cranes

Safe Work Australia's guide to tower cranes provides information on siting, erecting and using tower and self-erecting tower cranes.

Duties of principal contractors

This guide provides a summary of principal contractor duties in relation to a tower cranes.

Critical faults

This list of critical faults is intended to assist crane crews and those with management or control of operating tower cranes.

Key messages

These key messages were identified following the November 2012 crane fire at Broadway in Sydney. They are relevant to manufacturers and suppliers, but may help crane crews or persons with management or control to work with crane companies to address site issues.


Tower crane maintenance will make your site safer and prevent costly delays.

Mobile communication devices

Using mobile communication devices while operating (or working near) tower cranes can cause distraction. This document outlines the risks and how you can stay safe.

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