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Ben Hall is the crane coordinator for the NorthConnex development in Sydney’s north west. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, NorthConnex is a nine kilometre underground tunnel that will link the M1 Pacific Motorway to the Hills M2 Motorway, when it is completed in mid-2020.
To give some context to the enormity and scale of this development, once completed, NorthConnex will be the longest and deepest road tunnel in all of Australia, with a construction budget of $2.65 billion.
Ben has been on the project full-time for more than two years now.
“There’s a lot happening on different parts of the site every day,” says Ben. “With a project of this size you need a lot of support from quality contractors as there’s multiple parts of the site that need to be serviced at once.”
Since the site is nine kilometres long, with a twin tunnel motorway 90 metres underground at its deepest point, you can understand why safety would be an element that is never far from Ben’s mind.
“I can have only experienced professionals on the site,” stresses Ben. “There are still a lot of cowboys out there with ‘she’ll be right’ attitudes and that’s how people get hurt.
Two Way Cranes has been a significant part of the project because everyone in their team is an experienced professional who knows what they are doing.”
“On a project of this magnitude, near enough is absolutely not good enough,” says Ben.
Managing the crane crews on site for the past two years, Ben knows an experienced crew when he sees one.
This was never more evident than when there was an issue with a load that was lodged in the ventilation shaft in the tunnel.
“I won’t go into details, but we had an almost 100m shaft with a 100-tonne crane above it carrying a load that required some finesse and a delicate touch. It was complicated, to say the least.”
Ben goes on to explain that he used three different crane companies that all, one by one, failed to solve the issue.
“It felt to me like they didn’t have a solid plan in place. But it was different when the Two Way Cranes team came in.”
Armed with a complete logistical plan and safety justification for what they intended to accomplish, they were able to walk Ben through not just what they planned to do but why they believed it would work.
“Their organisation and detailed plan were just a cut above everyone else.
So much of what Two Way Cranes does in order to be successful on the job happens before they ever set foot on the crane.”
Ben believes that high standard comes from the very top – owner Frank Zammit – who is regularly on site.
This dedication to the job comes through from anyone who is part of the Two Way Cranes team.
“They’re always working with other crews to make the site flow better,” says Ben. “They’re never just sitting around; they’re engaged in what’s happening around them. It makes a big difference on site because if you’re not alert with so much happening, things can easily go wrong.”
As the crane coordinator, Ben is responsible for establishing and maintaining the safety of the crane operators on his site.
While safety is the responsibility of everyone on the site, Ben is the one who enforces it. This takes many forms, but in most cases comes back to making sure the right procedures and processes are followed, and that all risk assessments have been carried out and adhered to.
It’s part of the site’s responsibility to provide the risk assessments to the contractors. However, in addition to that, Two Way Cranes also does their own independent risk assessments which are signed off by Ben.
“That’s a big reason why the working relationship that I have with Two Way Cranes is so good. “
“They know WHAT they’re doing and can clearly justify HOW they plan on doing it.
The fleet is really well looked after, and it’s clear they ensure that cranes undergo regular inspections and maintenance. Safety is as important to Frank and the team as it is to me. Not all operators are like that.”
Every operator in the Two Way Cranes family has a strong working knowledge of the machine they are working with.
And with such a large and varied fleet they never have to push a crane close to its lifting capacity, always keeping safety as a priority.
When it comes to the Two Way Cranes team, Ben never has to insist that his own risk assessments are adhered to, or that they complete their own evaluations; it’s just done.
“The paperwork from Two Way Cranes is always completed in advance, without fail.”
The NorthConnex project is nearing towards its final phase, as it needs to be completed by mid-2020.
Ben has no intention of holding things back with delays on his watch, which is why jobs need to be done right the first time.
“All it takes is one mistake, one bit of laziness, one bit of ‘let’s wing it’ and things go wrong,” explains Ben.
“And it’s important to know what that means. Even if no one gets hurt, a mistake means redoing a job.
That’ll mean extra hours and working overnight, and that’ll incur traffic management and further risk assessments.
It can easily turn into a $10,000 mistake in the blink of an eye.
Two Ways Cranes has an impeccable reputation when it comes to getting the job done right the first time. That comes from experienced operators following clear guidelines, with a passion for what they do.”
Over the course of this massive development – and his career – Ben has worked closely with many different companies.
Ranging from large multinationals to sole traders, Ben believes attitude makes all the difference. It’s not just IF you get the job done, but also HOW you get the job done that stays with you.
“I find the larger groups are far too impersonal. Personal relationships mean a lot to me when it comes to the people I work with day in day out, sometimes week in week out.”
“At some point, a company grows and can stop feeling like a family. The personal service disappears. Two Way Cranes are a big company but are still so family oriented.”
With some companies if there’s an issue Ben needs fixed, he may have to go through a ‘red tape’ process that will take up valuable time.
With Two Way Cranes he knows who he’s dealing with and how to get hold of them directly, day or night.
“They take a real personal interest in each person they work with. They go above and beyond… not counting hours. They are there to get the job done, whatever it takes.
Frank is a genuine person. Other companies can be quite cocky and overconfident… and then can’t justify how they plan to get the job done.”
Two Way Cranes make it their mantra to maintain both professional standards as well as the family atmosphere. For them it’s the two sides of the one coin that can never be separated.
“They’ll have all the documentation and the professional elements covered… and at the end of it all they’ll remember your kids’ names and ask about your weekend. They’re not just ultimate professionals but also good people. That goes a long way with me”.