Crane Safety Hazards


The use of cranes to lift heavy equipment, material, and products is necessary in a wide variety of industries and there are many safety hazards that are inherent with lifting and transporting heavy objects.Cranes are a crucial piece of equipment in many industries. They are used in normal daily operation of large manufacturing facilities. They allow for construction of large buildings and repair of heavy equipment and assist in numerous other situations. The following industries use cranes extensively;

  • Construction. Both residential and commercial. Skyscrapers would not be possible without the use of cranes for steel frame construction.
  • Marine. Cranes are used on many types of boats for numerous tasks such as moving equipment, fishing tasks, and moving cargo.
  • Transportation. Cranes are also used at docks in order to load and unload the containers from cargo ships.
  • Manufacturing. Assembly of heavy equipment and machines would not be possible without the use of cranes.
  • Industrial. Cranes move equipment, materials, and products around industrial facilities. Many different types of cranes are used in factories.

The main function of a crane is to lift and move heavy objects that people would otherwise not be able to move. To do this, cranes use mechanical advantages created by pulley systems and hydraulics. There are many different types of cranes that employ those mechanical advantages in order to achieve this very straightforward task of lifting and moving objects. They generally fall into three categories.

  • Overhead. Otherwise known as a bridge crane. These cranes are used extensively in the steel industry and they operate by riding along two rails that are generally constructed with the building. They can be controlled by an operator in the cab of the crane, or by an operator with remote control on the ground.
  • Fixed. Constructed in one place either permanently or for the duration of a job.
    • Tower Crane. This is the type of crane used to construct skyscrapers.
    • Gantry Crane. Essentially two large posts with a bridge connecting it so that the hoist can move in a straight line in between the two posts.
    • Jib Crane. Generally used for small manufacturing jobs, jib cranes generally mount to a wall and feature a rotating arm with a hoist attached.
    • Deck Crane. Used on ships.
  • Mobile. Consists of a truss or telescoping boom arm that mounts to a mobile platform such as a truck or a boat.

The safety hazards and methods of prevention are very similar in almost every situation in which a crane is used. The first is a drop hazard in which a load could fall from a height and injure someone below. This could be caused by a failure of one of the hoist components or by improper rigging of the load. Some methods of preventing a drop hazard are as follows:

  • Inspect all rigging prior to lifting the load and do not wrap hoist lines around the load.
  • Never exceed the load capacity of the crane for the specific job that is being done.
  • Perform a stability test by raising the load only a few inches and verifying the balance prior to completing the lift.
  • Do not move loads over workers.
  • Follow standard hand signals of workers on the ground while raising and lowering the load.

Electrocution is an important hazard to consider when working around power lines or other powered equipment.

  • Make sure to note the location of overhead power lines or other equipment that might be an electrical hazard.
  • Follow the signals and direction of workers who have a clear view of the hazards while completing the lift.

Tip over hazards apply to mobile cranes.

  • Make sure the crane is located on stable and level ground.
  • Always use the outriggers at their fully extended lengths.

Lastly, improper use or incomplete inspection of the crane prior to use can both lead to accidents that would have been avoidable if the proper precautions were taken. Cranes are a very important piece of equipment in many industries, and the hazards associated with their use are very broad. Safe use depends on planning, training, and safe procedures which will help avoid very dangerous situations and potentially life threatening injuries.

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