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Toolbox Talk: Working Safely Around Cranes

By October 2, 2023 No Comments

Cranes are one of the most versatile, powerful, and important pieces of equipment commonly found on construction sites. They can be used to accomplish a lot of heavy lifting tasks, saving time and energy spent on a project. However, they can also be one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on site since they can lift heavy loads over large areas of a project, require workers to perform work at great heights, and pose the risk of electrocution. Employees who work with and around cranes need to understand the hazards of moving parts and rigging loads. Hazards relating to this type of equipment can include:

  • Striking injuries from moving equipment, raising or dropping loads
  • Crushing injuries from equipment overturning, breaking, or rigging failures
  • Falls from performing work at heights
  • Electrocution from contact with overhead power lines

There are many different types of cranes that play an important role in lifting heavy loads, No matter which piece of equipment is being used, below are some general safety rules in regard to the maintenance and operation of cranes.

Before moving a load:

Farwest Steel site in Post Falls, ID

  • Check first for overhead obstructions such as power lines, trees, structures, etc.
  • Verify the load rating for slings, chains, and straps meet or exceed the lift’s rating
    • All slings, straps, and chains must have tags identifying the safe working load
  • Understand potential pinching and crushing hazards around the crane and the load landing area
    • Mark each area with paint or chalk so they are visible to the construction crew and bystanders
  • Barricade the swing radius surrounding the crane to ensure unauthorized persons do not knowingly or unknowingly enter the pinch-point areas
  • Check for proper balance of the load and that all items are clear of the path of travel
  • Follow a lift plan for all critical lifts
    • Make copies of the plan and distribute them to the persons on the site
    • Modifications to the plan should be communicated to all relevant team members

While moving a load:

  • Never allow crew or bystanders to travel or work beneath a suspended load
  • Keep all persons at a minimum safe distance away from the crane while a load is being raised, moved, or lowered
  • Crane operators must keep their focus and attention on the crane when it is in motion
    • The operator should not talk on the phone or text for unrelated matters
  • A trained signalman is required and the signaller and operator must use common industry hand signals
    • The operator and signaller must be able to see each other and communicate at all times
  • Only one person should operate a lift or give signals at a time unless it is required due to a specific hazardous situation
    • This prevents conflicting messages that could cause confusion
  • Use an air horn to signal a lift is in motion to alert personnel of what’s overhead
    • It should be loud enough to alert persons in the general vicinity who might not be watching the crane
  • Never raise a load higher than necessary
  • Never leave a load suspended in the air unattended

Controlling Contractor

The controlling contractor on site is responsible for exercising reasonable care to detect and prevent hazards on the site. If a subcontractor brings a crane on site, the controlling contractor must:

  • Ensure that a qualified person is designated as the lift director
  • Ensure that a qualified rigger supervises work performed by the rigging crew (see WAC 296-155-53406)
  • Allow crane operation near electric power lines only when the requirements of WAC 296-155-53408 have not been met
  • Ensure that an assembly/disassembly director supervises work involving the assembly and disassembly of a crane (see WAC 296-155-53402)
  • Identify and evaluate hazards (such as ground stability, hidden tanks, voids, and utilities) in the area where the crane will be set up
    • Inform subcontractors of any hazards found
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