What’s at Stake?
A crane is one of the most versatile and important pieces of equipment found on a construction job. It can be used to accomplish a lot of otherwise heavy lifting tasks. It is often one of the largest pieces of equipment on a work site with many different operating functions. This means the operator must be able to concentrate on the tasks and be aware of their surroundings.
What’s the Danger?
Few experiences may be as frightening as when a crane becomes unbalanced while a load is being lifted or when the crane collapses under the weight of an excessive load. An unbalanced load or crane collapse can cause death to the operator, other construction workers, and can cause damage to property or equipment. A crane operator’s view of the full crane is often limited, putting them at risk of coming too close to people, property or power lines.
- Crane boom, cable, or load line
- Arcing and electrocution
Weather and environmental conditions
- Extreme heat
- Heavy rain
- Heavy snow
- Higher winds – higher up
- Resistance and weight of load
- Must measure direction and speed of wind
Cold and freezing conditions
- Adds weight to boom or load
- Affects the hydraulic system
- Cold hands of crane operator
Heavy rain and water
- Weight of load
- Overall weight limits of crane
- Muddy surroundings increases risk of crane unbalancing
- Workers in wet weather gear have reduced peripheral vision and hearing
- Risk of slipping in mud
- Fog, snow, heavy rain or smoke
- Can’t see to the load or boom tip
How to Protect Yourself
Power lines – Before assembling or
- Notify owner/utility company – and consider it to be energized until utility company confirms power line has been de-energized and visibly grounded at the worksite; or
- Ensure that no part of the equipment, load line or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), gets closer than 20 feet to the power line; or
- Determine the line voltage and the minimum clearance distance permitted.
- Never operate a crane when boom is covered with ice or snow – this increases the load weight and can cause collapse.
- Keep warm, especially hands, so you can carry out the crane movements accurately.
- Note it is stronger higher up, it increases load movement/swing and instability.
- Check the crane’s manufacturer guide to see the safe wind speed conditions; or
- If no guide is available, consider postponing the lift if the wind speed/gust is in the range of 15-20 mph (7-9 m/s). Above 20 mph (11 m/s), the lift must be canceled.
- Power lines may swing, so increase safe working distance from the lines.
- Adjust your load weight because snow and rain increase load weight.
- Remove mud and water from the load because it can pull it down.
- Check your base ground is safe because rain, snow and mud can make the support surface unstable.
- Double check what your colleagues are doing, because poor visibility makes it hard/ impossible to see hand signals.
- Use radio communications or wait until visibility is better if possible
- See and be seen, always wear a high-vis jacket and hard hat on construction sites.
Always be aware of the swing radius of the crane and never walk within that radius.
- Never work or walk under a boom, especially if it has a load on it.
- Never work or walk under suspended loads because the crane boom could fail, or the load could slip out of rigging and fall.
- Never ride the hook, there are too many things that can go wrong you can’t control.
- Always wear a hard hat when there is a possibility of a load being overhead. Hard hats offer some protection against falling objects and swinging loads.
- Stay off and away from the crane unless you are assigned to be on the crane.
Cranes are invaluable for moving heavy loads on construction sites. Treat them with respect, stay alert and stay safe.