People Profile - Phil Dayman, Universal Cranes


Phil Dayman has been part of the Universal Cranes team since 2005. Joining the organisation as a heavy-duty fitter in Brisbane, Phil worked as Heavy Lift Manager on some of Universal Cranes’ most notable projects including the HRSG Installation in Georgetown Tasmania, the Bowen Overpass in Brisbane and the Shellharbour Rail Bridge. Phil then moved to Project Manager of the Universal Cranes wind business, overseeing the installation and erection of wind towers and turbines at Capital, Hallett, Snowtown, North Brown and Cullerin Wind Farms. After a few years back in Brisbane in safety and operational roles, Phil made the move to Roma to lead Universal Cranes’ expansion in the Surat Basin. He has recently returned to Brisbane as the Operations Manager, leading Universal Cranes’ team of almost 100 local crane operators, riggers, dogmen, and mechanics.

We touched base with Phil to hear about the important lessons he’s learned on his safety journey after 30 years in the industry.

What area of crane safety are you most passionate about?

For me, it’s two parts – people and equipment. First, ensuring our people are competent and trained and that their skills are regularly tested.  Secondly, ensuring our equipment is regularly maintained and inspected to a high mechanical standard with defects reported and repaired before those defects create an incident or accident.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of safety management?

How people perceive safety. Safety is not just a Safe Work Method Statement, a procedure or a Job Safety Analysis. Safety is cultural – it’s awareness, competency, and a true understanding of what you are looking at when at the work front. I believe good safety culture and practice is something passed down by mentors, from the older tradies to the younger generation including apprentices and trainees. The value of having someone with a lifetime of knowledge and experience, passing on their information is a valuable part of every business. Much of safety is learnt on the job in real life situations.

What do you think is the most important issue in crane safety today?

Having the right mitigation strategies in place to manage the human factor in the work we do. Whether that be lack of training, tiredness or fatigue, use of drugs, competency or general attitude to safety – at the end of the day, this is a business built on people. Our people are our most important tools!

Tell us about the most important lesson learned you have come across in your crane safety experience.  How have you implemented these learnings since this experience?

In 2009 there was a terrible workplace fatality in which I was heavily involved in the subsequent safety investigation.  An operator was run over by a jinker trailer whilst on the job. As a part of the investigation I had to look at human movement and behaviour, procedures and training, site safety implementation, chain of safety responsibility, and how our human decisions affect our everyday safety, whether they be good or bad. The findings of this investigation determined that this death was tragically entirely preventable.  The outcome resulted in a major overhaul of safety procedures and protocols and how we approach safety with regard to human involvement and human error. 

This incident deeply and personally affected me.  Consequently, I am now highly motivated to drive continuous safety improvement, examining our procedures regularly and ensuring they remain relevant and followed. I never want to have to investigate an incident like that again.

What’s the best advice you have for other safety professionals in the industry, or for people looking to become a safety professional?

Thoroughly understand your subject matter. Always ask questions and understand how the people you are responsible for think. Always act fairly.

Sally Austin