Cranes play a critical role in construction. Many jobs simply wouldn’t be possible without them.
However, as large, heavy pieces of equipment, cranes can be dangerous to both the workers who operate them and those in the vicinity. Anyone who works on cranes or in close proximity to them should be fully aware of the dangers – and fully trained on how to avoid accidents.
The biggest risks include:
- Boom collisions with buildings, other cranes or nearby objects: Avoid collisions by ensuring that the crane operator has sufficient visibility. When that visibility is compromised, safety regulations require the use of a qualified signalperson on the ground to assist the operator. Always maintain sufficient clearance between the boom and surrounding structures. Pay attention to the conditions, and don’t operate the crane in high winds.
- Falling loads: Proper loading is critical to the safety of any crane operation. Know the load limits for your equipment, and determine the weight of all loads before lifting. Additionally, regularly inspect the wire ropes and slings in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Watch for snagged wires, corrosion, kinks and other red flags that might jeopardize the wire rope’s integrity.
- Overhead powerlines: Always check for power lines in the vicinity of crane operations, and always assume they’re live. Depending on the voltage, if the crane will be operating within a certain distance of power lines, extra precautions must be taken. You might need a proximity alarm, spotter, warning lines or barricades. In some situations, it might be necessary to de-energize and ground the lines.
- Tip–overs: Crane stability is a major concern in any lifting operation. Depending on the type of crane and its load capacity, achieving the right setup might require extensive preparation. Qualified riggers should ensure that the outriggers and pads are correctly positioned. A geotechnical engineer may need to examine the ground and soil conditions. Unfavorable conditions might require compacting the soil, allowing the ground to dry out, bringing in rock or taking other measures to establish safe and stable footing.
- On-the-road accidents: Mobile cranes are increasingly common on jobsites due to their efficiency. They can simply drive in rather than being disassembled and hauled in on semitrucks. However, the journey to and from the jobsite can be hazardous due to the sheer bulk of mobile cranes and their limited maneuverability. Of special concern are rear-end collisions and pinching accidents (where another vehicle gets caught against a turning crane).
When it comes to operating cranes, as with other aspects of construction, safety should always be a priority.