4 Tips For Safe Crane Operation

Posted on: 17 October 2016

Cranes are a vital part of many construction sites. They lift and transport large objects over long distances and heights, allowing you to complete your job in a fraction of the time it would take without them. While cranes do not come without risks, those risks are diminished greatly when you know how to operate them safely. Here are four solid tips to ensuring safe crane operation so the job gets done incident-free.

Don't Exceed Load Capacity

Understanding the load capacity of your crane entails more than just the weight of the object you're lifting. You'll need to also consider the use of outriggers, the lift angle, whether or not the crane is in motion, how fast it's moving, and how far you're traveling with the load.

Your crane will come with a chart that details all this information, but here are a few signs that it may be overloaded:

  • Structural damage to parts
  • The use of counterweights on the crane
  • Tire tracks that stop due to the crane being lifted off the ground

If you observe any of these, it's time to retrain your staff right away. Remind your crew that 80% of all crane accidents are due to overloading, and avoiding this is imperative for safety on the site.

Use Hand Signals

Making sure your staff knows how to use hand signals and ensuring that they actually use them while the crane is in operation is critical to everyone's safety. Hand signals indicate whether to hoist the load, raise and lower the boom, swing the boom, and stop, among other things.

Designate only one person at a time to be the signaler, and make sure the crane operator knows they are to follow orders from that person only. If two signalers are required, only one should be in charge. The signaler should be visible to the crane operator at all times. If the operator loses sight of the signaler, they should stop moving the crane right away until the signaler comes back into view. Remember that anything can obstruct the view of the operator, including the sun or bright lights at night.

Implement Electrical Safety

Power lines will often be present on your work site, but avoiding any electrical issues is certainly doable as long as you follow a few guidelines.

The first step is putting someone in charge of scoping out the site ahead of time and documenting the presence of power lines. OSHA has rules for this, and they include using acceptable devices to mark the boundaries all the way around the area. You'll also need to contact the power company to determine the voltage of the power line, as that will determine the acceptable working radius.

For example, for power lines that are 350 kV, the crane should come no closer than 20 feet to the lines. If you're dealing with less than 50 kV, 10 feet is the minimum. Come up with an additional way of preventing electrical hazards, like an alarm that sounds if the crane gets too close. If possible, talk with the power company about shutting off power to that line for extra protection. If they do this, however, the same precautions should still be taken. In other words, never assume that a power line isn't live.

Perform Routine Maintenance

Inspecting your crane regularly for any potential hazards should become a habit, not just for your own peace of mind but to also adhere to OSHA's requirements.

You should be checking for anything that could interfere with the mechanical operation of the crane daily, including the hoist chains for wear and tear, hydraulic system for leaks, and the hooks for cracks. Periodic inspections, done at 1- to 12-month intervals, should also be performed to check for similar things. These include but are not limited to parts that are damaged, corroded, or bent; loose bolts; cracked drums; problems with the gears or brakes; and deterioration of the electrical components.

By implementing these inspections and documenting what you find, you'll be better able to track any potential problems and avoid accidents. Contact your crane rental company for additional information and advice. 

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