Cranes are a marvel of engineering, and an essential component of many industries including construction, manufacturing, warehousing, and more. Operating a crane takes extensive training, and following set standards to ensure both the crane operator, and those in the surrounding area, are safe. Crane safety is an important component of overall workplace safety, and doing it right can mean the difference between life and death in many cases.
Developing Crane Safety Procedures in the Workplace
Having a detailed crane safety program in the workplace is an important step for all employers where cranes are used. This can start by identifying potential crane related hazards, and continues with finding ways to eliminate the hazards, or compensate for them in some way. All workplace safety is important, but crane safety in particular is critical because of how devastating accidents related to cranes can be. The following are some key areas that should be included with any good crane safety plan.
Common Crane Hazards
Crane operators, and those working around them, should be taught what the most common crane hazards are. Being aware of these risks will help ensure that everyone is watching out for them, and taking steps to avoid them whenever possible. The following are some of the hazards that all crane safety plans should take into account because of how frequently they can occur, and how serious they can be:
- Electrical Hazards – Cranes operate at great heights, which puts them in a terrible position for accidentally hitting electrical lines. The metal in the crane is an excellent conductor, and can cause fatal electrocution. Crane operators must be aware of where every electrical line is at all times.
- Materials Falling – Every load that a crane lifts needs to be properly secured. But even when the loads are secured, there is always a risk of something falling off. Those below the crane should avoid working in the area, and wear hard hats and other appropriate PPE when it is unavoidable.
- Overloading a Crane – Cranes can lift an astounding amount of weight, but there are limits. Crane operators, and those that load cranes, need to know precisely how much weight it can handle, and exactly how much weight they have added at any given time. Overloading a crane can cause it to tip over, or to drop the load, which can have devastating consequences.
- Crane Movement (pinch points) – Cranes often need to twist or move to get the load where it needs to go. This can create pinch or crush points where someone could be seriously injured.
- Dropped Loads – If a crane drops its load, whatever is under it will be crushed. Even vehicles or structures can be crushed from the impact of a heavy load dropped from a significant height. Nobody should work directly under a crane load for any reason, even with PPE.
Preventing Crane Accidents
Crane accidents can be catastrophic, but they can also be prevented. From initial training to pre-operation inspections, employers are responsible for implementing preventive measures and arming employees with the knowledge and equipment they need to stay safe on the job. It is important to first understand the kind of crane that is being operated, this might have an effect on the hazards taken into account. The employer can then go on to conduct training sessions, purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), and post crane safety signs.
Safety for Different Types of Cranes
There are several different types of cranes used in industries today, and each of them will have a different set of hazards that need to be accounted for. Understanding what type of crane is used in a given area, and how to improve safety for that specific type, is a critical component of an overall crane safety plan. Some of the most common types of cranes are:
- Tower Crane – Tower cranes can reach very high heights (265+ feet) and are commonly used in construction of skyscrapers or other buildings. These cranes can be secured at the ground, or attached to the top of a structure to aid in its completion.
- Gantry Crane – A gantry crane is fixed in one spot and gets support from the structure it is fixed to. These cranes are common in places like trainyards, shipyards, and factories.
- Rough Terrain Crane – Cranes equipped with treads rather than tires are important for construction sites with unpaved or otherwise rough terrain. It is critical to ensure the crane is secured safely before loading it to avoid accidents.
- Aerial Crane – An aerial crane, or sky crane, is attached to a helicopter. The wind caused by the helicopter makes securing loads properly especially important.
- Floating Cranes – Cranes that are based on a ship or platform in the water are known as floating cranes. In some cases, these cranes can be unstable due to waves, which must be taken into account when planning for their use.
- Vehicle Mounted Cranes – A crane can be mounted on a vehicle to make it more mobile for easier use. In most cases, the vehicle will be a large truck equipped with heavy outriggers to stabilize the crane while it is in use.