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crane operator safety

Learn about some of the many elements that come into play for ensuring the safe operation of cranes on the job site.

Crane operator safety should be one of the primary considerations of any worksite that is using this machinery to accomplish needed tasks. Cranes are powerful pieces of heavy equipment that make it possible to lift, distribute, and place heavy loads, material elements, and specific features on any site where substantial work is being accomplished — be it a construction site, in mining operations, road-building projects, shipment loading and unloading, and many more.

But there are hazards present, as is the case with any job site involving heavy equipment, as both the cranes and the loads they carry can cause harm if improperly handled or operated. For example, in the last full reporting period from 2011 through 2017, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 297 worksite deaths involving cranes. More than half of those deaths were the result of workers being struck by objects or equipment, and more than 20 percent involved the crane operators themselves.

But the ongoing work in recognizing and employing best practices in safety continues and has been on an upward trend. During the last full survey, there were 42 deaths per year on average. The average number of deaths per year involving cranes on a work site was 78 for the period from 1992-2010. Highlighting and embracing crane operator safety practices continues to be of the utmost importance for any organization and job site. Here, we’ll look at some of the many ways to continue to hone and improve crane operator safety.

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Crane Operator Safety Measures

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations in place that require only trained, certified, and properly evaluated individuals to operate cranes on job sites. This is the top safety measure in place for any job site involving the use of heavy equipment. By making sure to adhere to all regulations in this department, you can be certain that qualified personnel is being used to operate cranes at all times.

Properly vetted crane operators will give you the best chance to avoid unwanted accidents on the worksite, further show your dedication to protecting workers, and impact the bottom line through fewer materials damaged or lost and site shutdowns. Beyond properly trained and certified crane operators, here are a few more ways to improve safety.

Use Qualified Support Personnel

Having qualified riggers and signallers on site is a necessity to ensure the safety of all involved, particularly when heavy equipment or the moving of heavy loads using cranes is involved. Just like equipment operators, there are training programs and certifications needed to qualify potential riggers and signalers as having the necessary education and skill to be trusted in these important roles on a work site.

Riggers attach loads to cranes (or structures or other heavy equipment) using shackles, cables, chains, clamps, straps, pulleys, winches, or chain hoists. Engineering principles are always in play for these tasks, and quick load calculations are necessary for every lift. Using a variety of suspension techniques, Riggers help crane operators get their load around potential obstacles on a loading dock or construction site to the desired location.

Signallers, or slinger signallers, act as the eyes and ears on the ground for the crane operator. While the operator is inside a cab, they won’t have clear lines of sight to every potential hazard or obstacle that may come into play and may be too far removed to hear verbal communications. Using gestures and motions, signallers can inform the operator of everything happening around the crane and its load and thus mitigate loading and lifting risks and improve safety.

Stabilize Before Rigging

Mobile cranes use outriggers and other stabilizing features to prevent the crane from tipping over during operation. When stabilizing the crane, it’s essential to keep these tenets in mind before engaging or setting up the rigging to begin the lift.

  • Follow manufacturer guidelines to determine how far to extend outriggers. If the length is too short, the risk of a potential tipping issue increases dramatically.
  • Always use outrigger pads or crane pads underneath the outriggers.
  • Never place outriggers over voids, depressions, or unsteady ground. The crane needs a firm and stable base to operate correctly.

Understand Load Radius and Lift Limits

Load radius is a concept that essentially states that the further away the load is from the center of the crane, then the less weight the crane can manage without tipping over or collapsing. Lift limits are the maximum weights that a crane should attempt to lift and place; exceeding these can lead to accidents and crane failure.

Although many modern cranes include load moment indicators and rated capacity limiters, crane operators should still know how to read load charts and other related data in order to prepare for a safe lift. When accounting for safety, there is no such thing as redundant measures.

More than cranes: PTS also offers training courses on all sorts of heavy equipment, from skid steers to excavators. Learn more here.

PTS Provides Essential Crane Operator Safety Training

Performance Training Solutions extensively covers all safety topics related to crane operation as part of our three-week, 120-hour program from our Columbus, Ohio facility. This course includes both Mobile Hydraulic Telescopic Boom Swing-Cab and Fixed-Cab cranes. The training provided will give you the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to obtain entry-level employment as an NCCCO certified crane operator.

The program features a mix of classroom and in-the-seat instruction with topics covered including orientation to the trade, the basic principles of cranes, crane safety, preventative maintenance, wire rope and basic rigging practices, alongside the core concepts of crane operation. Small class sizes provide more one-on-one time with our instructors and examiners.

NCCCO Crane operator certification requires you to take and pass both written and practical competency examinations at the conclusion of the training program. Once you have passed all the required exams, you will receive a five-year Mobile Crane Operator Certification from the NCCCO National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators. NCCCO is an in-demand certification for the construction industry.

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