While technology has made cranes safer, the ultimate safety of a construction project depends on how they are operated. Most crane accidents occur due to boom failure or contact with a power line, overturned cranes, dropped loads, and boom collapse. Failed rigging and crushing by counterweights are causes of fatal accidents as well.
Crane and rigging equipment must be operated according to safety guidelines, by trained and qualified personnel, and according to product specifications. That means adhering to load capacity charts and inspection and safety protocols even when using a crane rental.
Recent Crane Accidents
- Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – August 2017: A crane failed aboard an aquaculture vessel on Prince Edward Island, according to a Newswire report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. The cause was determined to be a design flaw, and investigators found no lifejackets were on board at the time.
- Ottawa, Ontario – April 2017: A construction crane toppled on its side near a tunnel entrance while it was lifting a small cement mixer. An imbalance occurred because tracks to prevent tipping were not deployed, according to the CBC , causing the fall. There were no injuries.
- Calgary – June 2010: A 70-ton mobile crane toppled while lifting a communications tower too heavy for the crane’s rating, killing a 36-year-old father of two, as reported by the Calgary Herald .
- Vancouver – 2009: A 22-year-old crane operator was crushed to death while working on a rapid transit line, and the crane tipped over. An investigation found a lack of supervision and training to be the cause, per details on All-West’s website.
Why It’s Important to Follow Crane Safety
Crane and rigging safety is essential on the worksite, particularly for the preservation of human life. Even a small crane can cause a deadly accident. A common issue is capacity; if a crane is lifting an object it’s rated for, proper measures such as setting outriggers must be taken. Otherwise, the machine can become unstable and tip over, potentially killing operators or any workers in the way.
Any size of load can be dangerous, whether it’s 5,000 or 50,000 pounds.
Safety-related accidents not only cost construction companies in terms of injuries, property damage, and equipment loss; they can also result in stiff regulatory fines. Lawsuits by injured workers and their families can cost into the millions of dollars, but injuries, lawsuits, and harm to a company’s reputation aren’t the only factors to consider.
Regulatory compliance is a major factor in the crane industry. Canadian regulations reference and incorporate various standards, at the national and jurisdictional level, as discussed in an August 2014 industry report by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). These include standards by the:
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee 96 on Cranes
- Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
- Standards published by SCC-Accredited standards development organizations
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standards, including its B30 standards overseeing the use of cranes, hoists, derricks, and hooks
Occupational Health and Safety standards must be followed by all crane operators and worksite laborers near cranes and related equipment. These range from safe inspections to proper grading, to use of crane mats, pads, and blocking. All operational and safety training must be provided in accordance with the most current standards.
Important Crane Safety Tips
Incorporating standards into your procedures and training is important, but more so are the safety measures in place for each crane service job. Before operating a crane and moving a load, check all parts, such as ropes, rope drums, sheaves, hooks slings, and mechanical components or guards for wear or damage. Rails, wheels, brakes, control buttons, and gears must be inspected as well.
Other pre-operating procedures include checking no lights are burnt out, a fire extinguisher is in the cab, and that no workers are near or on the crane. Crane operators should also check there are no overhead power lines that could obstruct the operation. A minimum distance of 3 metres should be kept from lines of 750 or more volts, while crane loads should be at least 4.5 metres from 150-volt lines and 6 metres from those over 250,000 volts, per guidelines from the Infrastructure Health & Safety Administration .
Even while a crane is moving, inspections should continue. Operators should always check a wire rope has smooth play to and from a drum, that sheaves turn smoothly when a rope passes over, and that both are aligned as the rope enters a sheave. They should also beware of jerky movements and rubbing, clattering, or scraping sounds. The limit switch on the crane for rent should first be tested under no load to ensure it is working properly.
Before lifting, operators should also be sure:
- The load is free of loose materials, packing, and parts
- The sling and hoisting ropes have no slack
- The load does not exceed the maximum load capacity
- The lifting device fits properly in the hook saddle
To move loads with minimal safety risks, operators should:
- Begin hoisting only if nobody is nearby.
- Ensure there are no obstructions to load movement.
- Pad sharp edges on the load to avoid rigging damage.
- Make sure safety features, such as latches on hooks/hoists, and emergency disconnects, are in place.
- Sound a siren or other warning prior to starting.
- Maintain smooth movements of crane controls and loads.
- Follow signals from only one individual, unless it’s a stop signal.
- Check nothing catches on the rising/travelling load.
- Maintain control during lowering, even if it means reversing the hoist controller during a brake failure.
The safety risks don’t end when the operator leaves the crane. Before departing, they should remove the load from the crane hooks, raise the hooks to mid-position, and spot the crane at a pre-determined place. All controllers should be turned off before the main switch is closed. These actions are in addition to following equipment load ratings and limitations indicated by the crane service company.
Attentiveness also improves safety. In addition to monitoring the job, a qualified operator should never leave a suspended load unattended. When loads are in the air, they should always have an eye on the controls. Loads should also never be passed over workers, pedestrians, or street traffic; streets need to be closed to avoid injuries if the load can’t be rerouted.
How to Ensure Your Construction Project Is Safe
To avoid safety issues at the construction site, the following elements must be in place:
- Certified personnel : Includes an operator familiar with the crane model, its functions, characteristics, and limitations. Operators are responsible for safety as soon as they begin lifting a load, and to log all machine problems in writing. Crane owners must verify the safety of equipment and that operators are capable. They must ensure all jobsite personnel are experienced and properly trained.
- Communication : There should always be a line of communication between crane operators and other workers. This is especially critical during lifting. You can use hand signals, radios, or air horns; if signalling by hand, make sure all workers are familiar with what every signal means. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety outlines the signals qualified individuals use.
- Plan ahead : The circumstances are different every time a load is lifted. Always review weight load capacities and crane and equipment limitations, equipment integrity, and other factors such as wind speed and direction. Involve all lift personnel in the planning, which begins well before crane hire and is made more accurate and efficient using All-West’s 3D lift planning software .
- Anticipate swing : Every crane has a swing radius—or the arc in which the boom and counterweight travel. When the radius is identified, close off an area equal to this to create a control zone, so no unauthorized people are put in danger. Also, establish a plan for avoiding known obstacles on the job site.
- Proper use : Aside from load limits and other factors, workers also need to consider how they use equipment from the crane service company. Some crews have tried activities such as side-loading for cranes designed for vertical lifting. For example, dragging an object across the ground can put extreme stress on the crane structure, boom, and other parts. The integrity and strength of the crane may be compromised, and it must be thoroughly inspected if someone has used it improperly.
- Never use cranes to lift people : If the machinery isn’t designed for it, don’t allow employees to be lifted. This includes hooking up man-baskets to the hoist. Although this might look like an efficient way to bring personnel to a work area, it creates undue risk, including fall hazards. The consequences of operator error are too great. There are safer alternatives, such as boom or scissor lifts.
- Cranes are not storage tools : It’s not uncommon for workers to attach equipment to a crane and suspend it as an overnight storage method. The risks include injury to an unsuspecting person beneath it or excess sway or toppling in high winds. Modern hydraulic cranes can develop leaks. Hydraulic leaks ultimately reduce pressure, causing the boom to drop and possibly cause catastrophic damage. Therefore, no crane or boom lift rental should be used for storage.
Investigations of past construction accidents often result in the publication of hazard alerts. For example, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) issued a hazard summary for truck-mounted mobile cranes in June 1995. A failure involving a 22-ton-capacity system was caused by failed inner bolts that were improperly torqued. The alert suggested all bolt torque values be equal per manufacturer’s specifications, to ensure even distribution of stresses on mounting bolts.
Changes and additions to regulations need to be considered, too. In January 2016, the MOL issued a publication regarding the de-rating of mobile cranes used for handling materials over 16,000 pounds. It was intended to complement regulations from OSHA used in Canada. Cranes can be modified to reduce their lifting capacity, but only under certain conditions, and not to justify using a less qualified operator. Also, proper documentation and updated load-rating charts must be available.
Find “Cranes for Rent Near Me” from All-West Crane & Rigging Ltd. Today
All-West is a regional leader in small crane rental and for customers looking for a crane truck for sale. It can aid in the planning, selection, and sales process, while the company’s recognitions include COR Certification for its Health and Safety Management System. Therefore, your job site can remain most secure by following the above crane safety tips and resources. To learn more about our available cranes, support equipment, transport fleet, 3D lift planning, and other services, contact us at 250-992-5592.