Construction cranes are a common sight in American cities. From the perspective of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the term “crane” encompasses a large family of construction machinery used to hoist, lower, and horizontally move a suspended load. Types include industrial, barge, and crawler cranes as well as pile drivers and derricks.
Although cranes are designed to lift and move heavy objects safely, they pose a number of potential hazards. Many cranes, especially the larger variety used to erect tall buildings and skyscrapers, must be assembled on-site correctly and safely or they run the risk of toppling.
OSHA crane safety standards are a must in the construction industry. One way that contractors can ensure that regulatory and safety standards are met or exceeded is to hire safety professionals with a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety.
Important Crane Safety Considerations
The purpose of a crane is to lift and move heavy loads, sometimes very high, around construction sites. But cranes come with dangers as well, including poorly secured loads or incorrect assembly. A crane incident can result in serious injury or death to both crane operators and construction workers alike.
In April 2019, a crane in Seattle toppled onto a busy downtown street causing 7 casualties, 4 of which were fatal. In ConstructionDive.com’s “Recent Deadly Accidents, New Regulations Put Crane Safety in the Spotlight,” author Jenn Goodman points out that this incident, and others like it, generally come down to human error and that proper licensing and training is imperative to maintaining crane safety.
With these dangers in mind, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) published Policy Statement 424 in July 2019. The ASCE’s statement includes a list of crucial safety guidelines for construction sites:
- Require compliance with federal, state, and local regulations, codes, and standards, including OSHA regulations.
- Require prime/general contractor to carry the primary authority and responsibility for crane safety.
- Train operators, on-site personnel, and management staff on crane safety.
- Protect the public during crane operations.
- Identify elevated and underground electrical hazards.
- Obtain pertinent information regarding geotechnical reports, soil excavations, underground structures and utilities, and any other factors that may affect the operation of a crane.
- Require buoyancy and stability calculations for barge cranes to ensure that the barge is suitable for the crane’s tasks.
- Cease crane operations and implement crane safety mode when steady winds exceeding manufacturer specifications are forecast.
- Encourage the development of technology to improve crane safety.
- Encourage local colleges and universities to offer crane safety information in their civil engineering courses.
Individual operators and on-site personnel, even more so than management staff, are responsible for keeping up on daily crane safety checks. CraneTraingingU.com lists these tips in its website article “Crane Safety Training – Lifting Best Practices:”
- Conduct a visual inspection of the equipment.
- Conduct a visual inspection of site conditions and potential hazards.
- Ensure the stability zone of the equipment.
- Ensure stabilizers are fully deployed.
- Check the rigging.
- Ensure all safety devices are in place.
- Ensure that all personnel are a safe distance from the equipment, the loads and any other objects within the lift zone and its perimeters.
- Ensure loads to be lifted are within the crane’s capacity per the owner’s manual.
- Ensure that operators fully adhere to load/lift limits.
- Ensure the crane is as close to the load being lifted as possible.
- Keep loads as low to the ground as is reasonably safe when performing lifts.
- Secure the load after it has been lifted and properly stow the crane, stabilizers, winches and any other moving parts.
Crane safety tips do not just cover stationary, assembled cranes but also derricks and other types of trucks that house crane elements or boom arms used to lift long, heavy equipment such as utility poles. Most derricks have stabilization arms that keep the vehicle steady during operation.
Certification – A Key Safety Feature
One of the biggest issues facing the construction industry prior to 2018 was that although crane operators were generally required to be trained and certified, they were not always proficient on every crane type and capacity. Licensed operators often went to work on equipment with which they were not familiar.
In response to inadequate training, OSHA spent years attempting to refine its regulations concerning crane operators. According to Safety and Health Magazine’s “OSHA Announces Long-Awaited Updates to Crane Operator Certification Requirements,” OSHA now (as of December 2018) requires crane operators to be trained and certified of each type of crane independently. Regulations also offer more precise definitions of occupational health and safety terminology concerning crane safety and related practices.
Employers are also now required to train operators as needed to perform specific crane duties or operate new equipment. The new regulations ensure that crane operators have a more thorough understanding of the capabilities and dangers associated with the equipment they operate.
OSHA’s new regulations provide an improved level of safety for crane operators and their colleagues on the jobsite. Better understanding of crane specifications and capabilities can help contractors avoid dangerous mishaps or catastrophes.
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Eastern Kentucky University’s online bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety program is designed to teach students how to identify and analyze potential workplace hazards, infractions, and risks.
Experienced safety professionals guide students through environmental health and safety classes online, covering modern trends in employee engagement and the establishment of a safety culture in the workplace. For more information, contact EKU today.
OSHA Cranes & Derricks Subpart CC – OSHA.gov
Recent Deadly Accidents, New Regulations Put Crane Safety in the Spotlight – ConstructionDive.com
Policy Statement 424 – ASCE.org
Crane Safety Training – Lifting Best Practices – CraneTrainingU.com
OSHA Announces Long-Awaited Updates to Crane Operator Certification Requirements – Safety and Health Magazine