How can Workers Use Cranes Safely?

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Cranes Safely

Cranes are a common thing to see at construction and industrial sites and are used to handle the majority of the heavy lifting. Without them, companies would not be able to perform essential work to keep them in business. Workers who are around them every day can get used to their presence and become lax about safety matters. Ignoring the hazards that cranes pose is a mistake, since they are dangerous to both people and property when not used with care.

Understanding how cranes work and the ways to use them correctly is paramount to preventing workplace accidents. It all starts with choosing the correct crane for the job, and there are different types to use depending on the nature of the work.

What Kinds of Cranes Do Companies Use?

There are two main categories of cranes: fixed and mobile. Fixed cranes stay in one location and can reach higher up and lift heavier loads. They are generally transported to a job site in pieces, assembled, and then remain there until the project is completed. Types of fixed cranes include the following:

  • Bulk-handling crane: These have special hooks and buckets to carry heavy materials such as minerals and coal.
  • Bridge/overhead crane: These look like bridges, with two steel beams and a lifting mechanism that travels down the bridge section.
  • Tower crane: These are usually used to construct buildings and have operating cabs and a jib that can move horizontally or vertically.
  • Hammerhead crane: This common fixed crane also has a tower, with a swiveling lever on it. These cranes are exceptionally heavy and use trolley systems that move forward and backwards down the crane arms.

Mobile cranes have more flexibility because they are mounted on tires or crawlers and can be moved around job sites and driven on highways. Following are three types of mobile cranes:

  • Truck-mounted crane: These have two main parts, the truck itself and the boom. The boom acts like an arm to move material.
  • Crawler crane: Instead of wheels, these have rubber tracks on the bottom. This makes it easier for these mobile cranes to move on soft ground without sinking into it.
  • Carry deck crane: These smaller cranes have four wheels, can rotate 360 degrees, and are more portable than larger mobile cranes.

What Precautions Should Be Taken?

Before a crane is used for a job, the operator, manager, and other personnel should confirm that it has the correct lift, capacity, and travel capabilities. The load weight must be checked, as well as the slings, ropes, and hardware. Exceeding the capacities could easily cause an accident. The crane should also be inspected visually and physically. If there is noticeable damage or wear, it may not be in usable working condition. Operators should also ensure that their cranes are operating properly before they begin to use them, by testing the controls.

The crane operator and co-workers also need to choose clear signals before the work begins. One person on the ground should be assigned to communicate with the operator or be a designated signaler. Obviously, there is an exception if another worker needs to tell the operator to stop what they are doing. Everyone else in the load lift area should be alerted to the crane being used, and a clear path without obstructions should be laid out.

The proper lifting attachment or sling must be chosen for each lift. They should also be inspected before use, as should any other rigging hardware. Stretched, worn-out, defective, and damaged slings should not be jury-rigged or spliced. The sling can be slid onto the crane’s hoisting hook, and the safety latch can be closed and checked. Loading items on hook tips and hammering slings into place are unsafe practices. Workers should never drag slings; leaving loose items on a load that is being hoisted is also risky.

How can Supervisors Ensure Crane Safety?

Planning out crane operations beforehand is a smart way to prevent workplace accidents, since allotting enough time for the work in advance reduces the pressure that workers feel to get the job completed. Otherwise, workers may rush, cut corners, and become careless. This step also allows more time to inspect the crane and its components, and for the area to be cleared of people and any obstructions at the chosen time.

Cranes are complex machines, and employees who operate them must be properly trained. This includes a thorough knowledge of how the crane works, all the safety protocols, and the hand signals. Employers could be held responsible if they use inexperienced crane operators who cause accidents. If a crane can be operated only by certain employees, a lockout and tagging procedure should be used.

Managers, crane operators, and other employees can also create and review safety checklists that must be checked through before a lifting begins. These can be distributed to personnel and posted in easily seen locations throughout the job site.

Are There Safety Tips for Crane Operators?

Crane operators are literally in the driver’s seat when it comes to crane safety. Before using the crane, it is important to make sure that everyone in the area is aware of what is going to happen. Another worker can walk ahead of the load as it is moving to ensure that no one is nearby.  Here is another important safety rule: Loads should never be lifted over people.

The operator should move the crane controls and load as smoothly as possible to minimize load swing; the crane hoist should be centered over the load before it is hoisted, as this also prevents swinging. The load should only be raised up high enough to clear objects, and a tagline can be used to prevent uncontrolled motion such as rotation.

When the load is ready to be lowered, it must be set down on blocking rather than directly on a sling. Loads should never be pushed or pulled out from under hoists. As long as the load is still suspended, the crane and load should never be left unattended. Finally, slings should be stored off the ground, on racks or hooks in clean, dry locations. These and other crane accessories should not be left on floors.

What Should I Do if I was Injured by a Crane at Work?

Employers are required to provide reasonably safe working environments for their workers, but accidents still happen even when conscious efforts are made to adhere to protocols. Cranes are exceptionally large and heavy, and the injuries they cause can be serious and traumatic. When something such as this happens, the employee needs to attend to the injuries and report the event to the employer as soon as possible. The next thing to do is to file an injury claim with Workers’ Compensation. Timely reporting of the accident is the best way for a worker to protect their rights.

When an employee cannot return to work because of their work-related injuries, temporarily or permanently, they may be entitled to some kind of Workers’ Compensation. These damages reimburse the employee for lost wages and medical expenses.  However, if the accident was caused by a third party outside of the workplace, that party could be found negligent and theoretically be held liable. For example, a crane manufacturer may have used defective components when building the crane, causing a load to fall. Third-party claims fall outside of the Workers’ Compensation boundaries and can turn into civil lawsuits. When this happens, injured parties usually seek personal injury damages, which are not part of Workers’ Compensation claims.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight Diligently to Protect Injured Workers’ Rights

The thought of being seriously injured by a huge crane is frightening, and these accidents have been known to occur on various work sites. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries studied data from a seven-year period and found an average of 42 crane-related deaths per year. If you need trusted legal guidance with any type of workplace accident, The Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are available to help. We will work tirelessly to build the strongest case possible so you can recover compensation and focus on healing. We will not stop fighting for you until we have your complete satisfaction. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.

Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.