The Importance of Safety When Using Cranes and Rigging

cranes and rigging safety tips

To say the absolute least, being safe is one of the most important things to make a priority in any given scenario or workplace. That safety needs to be kept in mind especially when cranes or rigging is in use. We can’t have the darn things falling onto the innocent buildings below or have whatever there carrying be dropped, now can we?

Depending on those projects, the height at which those objects could fall is considerably high, hundreds of feet or more potentially. So, every crane operator needs to know the ins and outs of how to work their dangerous machine, they have to understand at least the basics, like lifting objects at angles, how to properly apply the riggings, load limits, and hundreds of other factors.

So, for your convenience, here is the basics of everything you need to know about the importance of safety when using cranes and rigging.

The Roles of Crane Operation

In layman’s terms, there are three roles in crane operation, each of which is incredibly important. There is the Operators, the riggers, and arguably the most important, there is the signal personnel. Each of these three groups have to be in constant and clear communication to effectively use their crane and rig it properly to get the job done and not let anyone get hurt by unnecessary mistakes.

It wouldn’t be very much fun if tons of steel beams fell because the operator started raising it before the rigger could hook it up. So, here is a little bit of a deeper dive in these three roles, and why there important.

The Operators

Operating a crane is a single person job, you don’t need anyone other than that one person, and it designed this way for simplicity and efficiency. There’s only one person that needs to know what they are doing and focus in order for it to work.

So, operators are the ones responsible for directly operating the crane, and subsequently lifting the equipment and resources up and down.

Operators must know every aspect and function of their crane, every button and lever inside the cabin must be known for the operator to work it effectively and safely. To prove that each and every operator can handle their crane, they need to have documented time in a classroom and hands-on training for their operating systems. At the end of the course, they’ll need certification for an accredited organization to prove they know what there doing.

It seems like quite a bit of hassle, but it is definitely worth it to learn how to be safe on a crane, and to let others be comforted with the knowledge that you know what you’re doing.

The Riggers

The riggers are just as important as the operators. The operator is moving whatever the riggers hook up to the crane, and if they don’t do it properly, then those giant, heavy objects are going to slip out of its rigging and. OSHA defines a fully professional rigger as someone who has experience and certification in performing basic tasks and beyond of rigging. They have to know how to solve problems quickly, in case anything happens during the job, they can get it fixed up nicely and without anyone getting hurt.

A few of the major things a rigger is going to need to know is how to do assembly and disassembly, hooking and unhooking, guiding loads if the need arises, initial connection of loads to different components, and a lot more. Now, something important to note out is that a rigger might be certified to specialize in one area of rigging and not be certified in other areas of it, in which case, everyone needs to be aware of what area they specialize in, in order to be effective and safe.

The Signal Personnel

Like I said, this is arguably the most important part of rigging and craning. The signal personnel are required for any operation of cranes and rigging where the operator can’t see. If there is any blind spots that the crane operator has, than the signal personnel has to be there to guide them, if the path is obstructed, or in any situation where a signaler is needed.

The thing that signals personnel need most is the understanding of hand signals and other communication and has to be in contact with the operators and riggers at all times during operation to ensure nothing goes wrong or anyone gets hurt.

Like the other two of the three, the signal personnel need to be qualified, though they don’t need a certification all the time like the others. They only need to be qualified by an employer or a third party.

Problems and Hazards That Can Occur

Every sort of construction work has hazards on the job, and they ca vary based on what type of job is occurring. Though it’s a little more straight forward concerning cranes and rigging, basically, it’s the problem of dropping or running into things when the crane is in operation.

Weather

The most obvious problem in any sort of work being done outside is the matter of weather. A lot of it can affect visibility, rope and sling strength, controlling a load, etc. A lot of this is warned about in the operator’s cabin, when to not use it during instances of bad weather.

Wind speed is the most common problem in rigging. Winds higher up the crane, around the boom, is worse, as they are stronger than the winds down below near the ground. Winds can affect load control quite a bit, making it swing and move in unpredictable ways that can affect the way the operator has to work. One of the warnings in the cabin is for the operator not to operate the crane when wind speeds are more than 20 miles per hour, and rigging shouldn’t be done in winds faster than 30 miles per hour.

Snow and ice can affect the crane by making the crane slicker, freezing up joints, giving difficulty for the riggers, etc. Rain can make the entire operation harder, lightning can strike the crane or loading when in use, causing a whole load of problems. Weather should be kept in mind at all times during operation and before to determine if it should be in use.

Inspections

Regular inspections need to be implemented for all equipment in any operation, cranes especially need to inspect to make sure it’s not falling apart, your equipment needs to be in good order and maintained for regular and long use. Daily inspections need to be done to insure everything is good to go, a qualified operator should be inspecting the cranes controls, safety devices, other equipment needed to make sure there in good working order. Just as the operator inspects the controls, the qualified rigger should be inspecting the latches, ropes, hooks, etc.

Now, inspections need to be done at very least once a year, if not monthly, weekly, or hopefully daily. If any inspections are missed, things could be out of order and that’s not a good thing, lose bolts and riggings could have things come undone.

Obstructions

Obstructions are very dangerous in this line of work and including blind spots, it can be fatal. One of the most common obstructions is power lines, so those are something to look out for, and any other obstructions need to be looked out for. Qualified signal personnel can make sure the riggers and the operators steer clear of those obstructions and keep everyone safe from running into them.

Misuse of Equipment

This one may seem to be a little obvious, but misuse of the equipment can be pretty bad. Not having the properly qualified worker in any part of the job can put a lot of people at risk and should be avoided at any cost. A rigger not being able to properly rig would mean losing whatever load is being carried, or even worse, put the crane off balance confusing the operator. An operator who’s not qualified can effectively destroy any building they come in contact with, not knowing what any of the controls are or what they do. Signaling personnel is also incredibly dangerous when they don’t know what they’re doing, they could use the wrong hand signal and confuse other workers, making them run into things dropping things, and all-around dropping things.

A specific hazard of misuse is shock loading. This is when a load is suddenly jerked up by the operator, causing the load to travel quickly upwards, faster than the line can handle, causing the line to have slack and leeway when it shouldn’t. This causes the weight of the entire load to come down on the crane and the line, which can cause the line to break or the crane itself if there not careful. An operator can avoid this though as long as they don’t lift any load up to quickly or too quickly off the load. In the absolute worst-case scenario of shock loading, the crane itself can be tipped over, destroying countless things.

Rigging methods

This is something that needs to be said as it is extremely important in the cranes and rigging process. After checking that the crane is secure, supported, and configured properly, the type of rigging that needs to be used is determined. If the type of rigging is incorrect with what is actually needed, then it can lead to all sorts of problems, that could have been easily avoided. Three of the rigging methods are:

Chocker Hitching: This is the simplest rigging method, the line being wrapped around the load and tightened to the proper amount in order to keep it secure. This is suited for large cylinder like objects, and not suited for groups of loads, it should only be done one at time in order to keep everyone safe and keep the project moving forward without problems.

Basket Hitching: This is the method in which the end of the slings is attached to the cranes hook, helping the lines avoid unnecessary tension. This is great for things that need multiple configurations to be lifted, but it is not the best when the load is too imbalanced. Something of difficult shape and not equally spread weight throughout should use a different type of rigging in order to keep everyone safe and on pace.

Vertical Hitching: This is the method in which only one side of a load is being lifted, making the other swing freely. This is not ideal for a lot of objects, as like I said, it can swing freely, meaning there is a lot of unnecessary hazards included with the load. You can envision this type of rigging to one of a wrecking balls, its rigged to the top of the ball only, making it easy to swing around and destroy things.

The operator also needs to know what type of rigging configuration is being used and at what angle the load is being rigged in. They need to know in order to properly lift it without hitting into anything and making sure everyone is safe by understanding at what angles they need to move the load. There are different angles that can be used for different types of loads and they can be implemented depending on the object. A 90 degree is a vertical lift, which is the vertical hitching, there is the 60-degree angle, and there is the 45-degree angle, each used for a different load type. The importance of the load type, rigging, and angle are all important and need to be effectively communicated in order to keep people safe, the workers and pedestrians.

Something to keep in mind, is that these angles and rigging types are examples and are not the only way things can be done, but they should be used to determine similar methods of riggings and using cranes, the safety is paramount in concerns to these effects and should be kept in mind and thought out completely.