8 Crucial Crane Safety Tips
8 Crucial Crane Safety Tips All Operators Must Read
Worksite and crane-related accidents are relatively common in Singapore. Just recently, in August 2022, authorities discovered the body of a migrant worker after a crane had collapsed at a shipyard.
While cranes and other lifting equipment are vital to construction sites, these cases underscore the importance of crane safety at work.
Understanding the hazards and best practices regarding crane operation will easily reduce worksite risks and improve overall occupational safety.
This guide briefly discusses crane safety tips, hazards, and how operators can protect themselves from injuries and fatalities.
Crane Safety Hazards
Various cranes are invaluable to any construction site activity. This heavy equipment is used for hoisting and transporting different loads from one place to another.
However, improper use and failure to maintain cranes can lead to many safety issues. Common crane hazards include:
- Lack of Crane Operational Training – Operators that have not been adequately trained on running the crane may not be able to safely and optimally carry out their duties.
- Slippages – Improperly securing loads on the crane can result in slipping and loose components.
- Overloading – Overloading the crane capacity beyond its ideal limits can damage the equipment and endanger employees.
- Component Failure – Cranes are also prone to electrical hazards due to wear and tear. Component and mechanical failure can occur without scheduled inspections and routine maintenance.
- Two Blocking – Occurs when the hook assembly (lower load block) collides with the boom point sheave assembly (upper load block). It can interfere with the crane’s operation, resulting in higher tension and falling loads.
Hazards will always be present when operating a crane. However, the risks and dangers can be minimised or altogether avoided by following these crane safety tips below:
1. Choose The Right Type Of Crane
Crane safety starts with choosing the right type of crane. Construction cranes can either be fixed or mobile.
A mobile crane is typically used for short-term projects, such as roofing, HVAC installation, construction etc. Meanwhile, fixed tower cranes are immobile and erected specifically beside buildings to hoist heavy loads.
Below are other types of cranes and their uses:
- Crawler Crane – Features track-type wheels for improved manoeuvrability in different terrains. Crawler cranes can have a telescopic or lattice boom.
- Crawler Tower Crane – The largest type of crane, capable of lifting loads of up to 2,500 tonnes. Their size makes them ideal for construction sites rather than road works.
- Lorry Crane – A crane mounted on a truck or lorry used to transport heavy cargo and loads. They’re a cost-effective alternative to tower cranes, as they don’t need support pads/foundations and can be used immediately.
- Rough Terrain Crane – Also known as RT cranes, these all-terrain and all-weather cranes can handle snowy, muddy, humid, and other rough terrain conditions. Like the tower crane, RT cranes are immobile and must be erected on-site.
2. Read And Understand The Crane Safety Manual
Reading the operator manuals should be your workers’ priority for whatever equipment, be it crawler or mobile cranes.
Crane safety manuals contain information regarding:
- Pre-lifting and lifting procedures
- Crane inspection and maintenance
- Wire rope safety
- Boom types
- Safe working loads
- Prime mover
- Operation controls
Employees directly operating or working with cranes should thoroughly understand the intricacies of the machinery before using it. This is to avoid accidents and issues that can lead to a work stoppage.
3. Clear Out The Path Before Using The Crane
Like other construction equipment, site managers need to ensure the path is clear before crane passage.
Electrical hazards which can’t be displaced, like power lines and other permanent fixtures, must be avoided at all costs. The operator must also maintain a safe distance from immovable path obstacles to avoid collisions and accidents.
Whatever the conditions, crane operators and on-site employees should wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, boots, high-visibility clothing, etc.
A designated signaler must also be present to direct the crane and alert them of any incoming obstacles, especially under low visibility.
4. Ensure Qualified Personnel Are Handling The Cranes
Crane safety depends on trained employees’ ability to set up, rig, signal, and manoeuvre this heavy equipment. The MOM (Ministry of Manpower) has regulations outlining the safe use of mobile cranes.
Contractors must be familiar with the duties of crane personnel and ensure employees are adequately trained. Also, crane operators must first apply to the MOM to become registered.
For instance, someone who wishes to operate a lorry crane must complete a relevant lorry operator course from an accredited training provider (ATP).
Additionally, they will need to pass a medical examination if they are aged 50 and above before operating a crane.
Always perform background checks to determine your personnel have the proper certifications. This allows you to comply with safety regulations and ensure an accident-free worksite.
5. Follow The Correct Load Capacity
Lifting and rigging are the most commonly-performed tasks on a tower or mobile crane. Therefore, proper rigging is essential to prevent loads from falling and hitting workers on-site.
An operator must choose the correct sling and hitch configuration based on the lifting requirements:
- Basket Hitching – The sling is securely attached to the crane’s hook to prevent additional tension on the load.
- Choker Hitching – The sling is securely wrapped around the load or object. This configuration is suitable for cylindrical objects that must be lifted one at a time.
- Vertical Hitching – The sling is attached to the object and, the other, to the crane. However, vertical lifting tends to be unstable and will cause the load to rotate when lifted.
Meanwhile, the right sling angle must be used while hoisting loads. Crane personnel should use slings that are appropriately rated for the load and the angle by which it’s lifted.
6. Perform Daily Inspections
A crane operator should conduct daily inspections on the crane before use. They can keep a daily inspection checklist which includes initial, pre-start, pre-operation, safe load, safety equipment, and other checks.
- Initial Checks – The operator should inspect the condition of the access, ladders, machinery house, tires, cabin, etc., and see to it they won’t inhibit the driver during operation.
- Pre-Start Checks – Boom chords, wire ropes, hook blocks, outriggers, machine guards, etc., must be inspected for damages and conditions. The driver will also need to ensure enough oil, fuel, and coolant levels.
- Pre-Operation Checks – Controls, brakes, boom radius, cut-outs, and brake linings must be inspected to ensure safe operation.
- Safe Load Checks – The cab must clearly display the load radius chart. Audio-visual alarms must be tested for functionality as well.
- Safety Equipment Checks – A fire extinguisher should be located at crane operator stations or the cab. Floodlights should also be serviced to improve crane operation safety.
7. Calculate The Load Radius
Each crane has specific load and height limits which depend on the load being hoisted and moved from one place to another.
These calculations are all part of the load radius. They determine how much weight the crane can carry without tipping over or collapsing as the operator gradually directs the load away from the crane’s centre.
Other factors affecting the load radius include the boom angle and length of the extensions (applicable to telescopic cranes).
Generally, the higher the angle, the closer the load is to the centre line. This allows the boom to carry heavier loads. Meanwhile, a lower boom (closer to the ground) means the load is further away from the centre, wherein the boom can only carry less.
8. Understand Crane And Hoist Hand Signals
There are a set of established hand signals and communication protocols regarding safe crane operation. The purpose is to convey signals safely throughout the lifting process, allowing the operator to adjust accordingly as the situation demands.
Hand signals can direct which direction to take and when to hoist, swing, lower, or stop the crane (if needed).
Conclusion About Crane Safety
Crane safety is paramount to ensure proper usage of this heavy machinery. This guide describes some essential tips while operating a crane to minimise construction hazards and prevent worksite injuries.
For more information on cranes and crane safety, contact Pollisum. We offer lorry cranes and mobile crane rental in Singapore for your projects. We also provide rental for trailers, trucks, tugboats, and barges.
Check out our video on Safe Operation for a Telescopic Crawler Crane.
We were invited to be an exhibitor for HDB Safety award 2022 to showcase our safety process and our professional safety team.
Frequently Asked Questions About Crane Safety
The most common causes of crane accidents are:
- Crashing into power lines
- Mechanical failure
Cranes may tip over when improperly maintained or when operators bypass the crane’s limit, overloading the equipment. Often, the crane cannot handle heavy loads because the outriggers are faulty or improperly secured to the ground.
Personnel working directly with the crane are most at risk, but nearby workers may also be in danger of injuries and fatalities.
Outriggers and other crane stabilisers can prevent the crane from falling or overturning while it's in use.