Crane Safety is Imperative – Now More Than Ever


San Diego, CA- ( A fatal crane accident in Seattle this year points up the need for proper training and preparing for anyone using these devices. Four people were killed and four others injured when a crane fell from a building on one of the city’s busiest streets. As  workers were taking the mass of the crane off it fell, sending  sections of it on the Google building on which it was located. Other pieces fell to the street below hitting six vehicles.  A 25-year-old mother and her 4-month old baby had been in one of those cars that were smashed by the crane, however, both managed to escape with just minor injuries.

Cranes are a marvel of engineering and an important component of various industries including warehousing, manufacturing, warehousing, construction and more.  Operating a crane can’t be done by just anyone. Cranes require special, and extensive training. Those operating them must follow a set of standards to ensure the safety of themselves as well as the those that are in the surrounding area.

Crane safety is an essential component of overall safety in the workplace, and doing it correctly can mean the difference between life and death. This is precisely why OSHA requires employers to provide training to its workers who face hazards while on the job. The agency offers training materials, provides training throughout authorized education centers, and distributes training grants to nonprofit organizations.

Employer Programs

Where employees are using cranes, it's imperative that the employer have a comprehensive safety program in place.  Also, workers should be aware of the most common crane hazards. Ideally, crane operators as well as employees working around them should be aware of all the risks to ensure everyone is watching out and taking the necessary steps to avoid hazards when possible.

Among the hazards that all crane safety should address are: 

  • Electrical Hazards – Crane operators must be aware of the locations of all electrical lines on a job site to prevent accidentally hitting electrical wires.  The metal in the crane could cause fatal electrocution since it's an excellent conductor.
  • Materials Falling – A load that is lifted by a crane should always be adequately secured. Also, workers in the area must always wear personal protection equipment  like hard hats.
  • Overloading a Crane - Even though cranes can lift a massive amount of weight, they still have their limits. Crane operators and those that load cranes should know exactly how much weight a crane can handle as well as how much weight they can add.  The overloading of a crane can cause a load to drop or cause a crane to tip over from the extra weight, which can have devastating consequences.
  • ·Crane Movement (pinch points) - Often cranes need to move or twist to get the load where it needs to go. This moving around can create crush pinch points where someone could be seriously hurt.
  • Dropped Loads - If a crane drops its load, anything or anyone under it will be crushed, such as structures or vehicles, especially if the load is dropped from  a significant height.  Employees should never work directly right under a crane load.

View from the Field

"Employers should make sure their workers are familiar with the specific crane(s) they are using and know its limitations before starting any work,” Michael Loos, a licensed crane operator and construction foreman for National Grid, a Public Utility Company located in New York, told “Also, the employer should hold a pre-job brief where everyone discusses the weight of the objects to be loaded/unloaded, the pick-up and drop locations and general safety precautions for each and every job site."

Loos also expressed to us that he had received extra training on crane safety from his employer.  "In this day and age everything is under a microscope. Ninety-nine percent of the workforce takes special care and pride in their work, and makes sure to do it safely and diligently.”

A few years ago, OSHA renewed a five-year alliance with the Crane, Hoist and Monorail Alliance (CHM) to begin improving safety and training opportunities in the overhead lifting industry.  According to the alliance, here are six ways that employers can increase crane safety within their own facilities: 

  1. Create accountability with the inspection. Written guideline should be developed for crane and hoist inspections as well as maintenance programs.  This code should be implemented to train every crane operator on proper crane equipment use as well as a safety protocol.
  2.  Schedule inspections ahead of time. A pre-planned schedule should be developed to stay on top of equipment functionality through preventive maintenance. The schedule will aid help prevent breakdowns and ensure repairs are made to keep the equipment up to par and meeting all safety requirements
  3. Read the manual. It's crucial that every crane operator reads the manufacturer's operating manual, as a way to add an additional level of protection at the job site.
  4. Conduct pre-shift inspections. Crane operators should understand what are the applicable OSHA, national, state, and local inspection requirements for the machinery they are using during each shift so they know how to ensure their products adhere to appropriate specifications before each workday.
  5. Implement a lockout/tagout procedure.  This necessary procedure protects employees by cutting off equipment from its energy source before any maintenance work is dome and helps prevent an unexpected or accidental operation from stored energy, possibly resulting in an injury.
  6. Know the equipment's limits. Employees should always be aware of their crane load limits. 

"OSHA is committed to strong, fair, and effective enforcement of safety and health requirements in the workplace,” said a DOL spokesperson in a statement to “Moving large, heavy loads is crucial to today's manufacturing and construction industries. Much technology has developed for these operations, including careful training and extensive workplace precautions. There are significant safety issues to be considered, both for the operators of the diverse ‘lifting’ devices and workers in proximity to them."

Training workers in crane hazards and proper use can prevent injuries and reduce costs for payers. “Nowadays, everyone would be held accountable if an accident were to occur whether it be an engineer who approved a job, a supervisor overseeing a job or the operator himself, " Loos said.


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