Cranes, used for heavy lifting and transporting materials, are common pieces of equipment found on most construction sites. But despite their common appearance, cranes are actually quite dangerous if mishandled. When using a crane at a construction site, certain steps should be taken to avoid hazards.
Selecting the Crew
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) dictates that only certified crane operators are permitted to operate a crane at a construction site. There are a few different ways to be certified: either through a third-party or through proper training by their employer.
But there are more crew members required to operate a crane besides the operator! The equipment has to be inspected on a monthly basis by what OSHA defines as a “competent person”: someone who is “capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
Additionally, a “qualified person”: someone “who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training and experience, successfully demonstrated the ability to solve/resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project” must conduct annual inspections of the equipment, manage assembly and disassembly, repair and maintenance, supervise wire rope safety, and monitor fall protection.
All these additional crew employees must be properly certified, as well.
Prepping the Area
Cranes are typically large, taking up a lot of space. Therefore, it’s vital that the area be prepared to make sure that the equipment is used properly and efficiently. The following should be considered when prepping the area:
- Is the ground level and firm? Different cranes require different terrains. For instance, a crawler crane prefers softer ground, while other cranes work better on hard ground. OSHA mandates that the ground conditions onsite must be properly graded and drained before a crane is assembled for use. It’s also important to have supporting materials on hand, like mats, cribbing, etc.
- Can the crane rotate 360 degrees safely? Be sure that there are no obstructions in the crane’s path, as many types of cranes require 360 degree mobility to transport materials.
- Is there enough space for outriggers? According to studies, as much as 50% of crane accidents are the result of misused outriggers. Many types of cranes come with outriggers for added stability and to maximize lifting power. Outrigger positioning is also used to adapt to varying ground conditions.
- Is there access to roads? It is very important to have road access through the site in order to ensure safe delivery and movement of trucks, derricks, cranes, and other equipment and materials.
Access & Egress
Simply getting on and off of the crane is typically the most overlooked hazard. For example, when assembling or disassembling a lattice boom crane, it is necessary for the employees to walk across boom sections to install or remove pins. This can be very dangerous. For equipment made prior to November 8, 2011, the employer is required to have fall protection for employees performing certain risky duties on the equipment. For cranes made after November 8, 2011, there must be built-in walkways and other safety features like walking/stepping surfaces, with slip-resistant properties, in order to protect employees.
Construction sites often get muddy, so other precautions should be taken around the equipment. Water should be cleared from walkways, scrap lumber and other miscellaneous items should be removed, and only ladders or ramps should be utilized as a means of access or egress from a cab.
Rigging the crane can also be a hazardous process. Often times materials can weigh several tons and can crush anything in its path. Special precautions should be taken to avoid accidents and injuries:
- Schedule the rigging to avoid overlapping with other work or operations.
- Always stay under the maximum rigging capacity for the crane
- Only hooks with self-closing latches should be used
- Inspect all straps and chains for defects before using
- Discard frayed nylon straps, as they may tear easily
- Make sure straps are free of knots. Knots can reduce lifting capacity by 50%
- Never leave materials suspended on the crane for extended periods
Cranes come with many hazards. To better protect your work site, it’s also necessary to carry the proper coverage.
For more information about how to protect your work site, call (949) 222-0444. An ERM expert is waiting to speak with you!