Preventing Accidents by Improving Crane Safety

Cranes are among the most important pieces of machinery ever invented. They allow the construction and manufacturing of many things that would simply be impossible without them. That being said, they can also be extremely dangerous if they are not properly used. If your company relies on cranes for any type of work, it is important to develop a comprehensive crane safety strategy that is implemented and followed at all times.

It is not enough to have a general safety program in place that applies to all situations. This is because cranes are unique in what they do, how they operate, and the various hazards associated with them. This is why crane safety must make up its own segment of your overall crane safety program. In addition, you must have all of your employees trained on their role in keeping everyone safe around cranes.

Examples of Hazards Associated with Cranes

The first step in improving the safety of any situation is understanding what the hazards are. There are many different ways that a crane can cause accidents or injuries either directly or indirectly. In addition to the following common crane hazards, your facility will likely have a variety of specific dangers associated with cranes based on your environment. Taking the time to analyze exactly where the hazards may be will allow you to create an effective plan to mitigate the dangers.

The following are some common crane hazards that are found in virtually every situation, which should be addressed in any crane safety program:

  • Accidental Dropping of Load – If the load that a crane is moving is accidently dropped, it can cause serious damage to anything in the area below it. To the extent possible, make sure nobody is working anywhere in the area surrounding where a crane load is being moved.
  • Loading Cranes Beyond Limits – While cranes can lift and move massive amounts of weight, they do have limits. Make sure to know the weight limits of each crane being used and never load it beyond its capacity.
  • Pinch Points – Many cranes have moving bases, which can create pinch points for anyone working in the area. If a crane base can move, nobody should be working in that area.
  • Unsafe Foundation – Mobile cranes can be set up in almost any area, which is essential for many projects. Keep in mind, however, that they need a very secure foundation or they could slip, tip over, or have other hazards.
  • Contact with Electrical Lines – If the crane comes into contact with electrical lines it can cause electrocution, fires, explosions, and other dangers. Make sure to identify all electrical lines in the area before operating a crane.

Methods for Eliminating Crane Hazards

Once you have identified the hazards that exist with cranes in your facility, you will need to find ways to eliminate them, reduce their likelihood of occurring, and protect employees should an incident occur. Whenever attempting to try to mitigate any type of hazard the best thing you can do is to look at the hierarchy of hazard elimination.

This is a process that will help you to find the best way to improve safety. It can be used for any type of danger, including crane safety. Once you have a list of hazards that you need to address, you will work through each of the steps to try to deal with the risk. The options that come first are the preferred methods of improving safety, and the last option will be the least effective, but still much better than nothing at all.

The first step would be to attempt to eliminate a hazard. If you are looking for a way to deal with the risk of having a crane come in contact with electrical wires, you may be able to eliminate the hazard by positioning the crane in an area where no wires are present. If that is not possible, you move on to the next option, which is reducing the risk. This may be able to be done by putting flags or other signals on the wires, and making sure the operators are aware of where they are at all times.

In some situations, the implementing engineering controls (which is the third option in the hierarchy of hazards) is possible. An example of this could include somehow blocking the crane from turning into an electrical wire. The next step is to try to use administrative controls, which are simply rules or procedures to follow to help reduce the risk of an incident from occurring. In this case, it may be requiring all operators to walk around a crane looking for electrical wires before getting in the cabin.

The last option for mitigating hazards is to use personal protection equipment. This is so if all the other steps in this process fail, the people working in the area will still be as safe as possible. The crane operator, for example, should be protected from electrical shock if the crane does come in contact with an electrical wire. In addition, anyone working around the wires should have hard hats and other gear to keep them safe.

Tracking Accidents and Near Misses

Even after you have a crane safety program in place, you need to make sure you are continuing to look for ways to improve it. One of the best ways to find improvement opportunities is by closely tracking all crane related accidents and near misses.

Almost all facilities have a policy in place that requires employees to fill out reports whenever an accident occurs if it results in any injuries or damage to equipment. Even if there are no injuries or damage, however, you should require that the accidents be reported. This will give you the opportunity to look closely at what happened and try to come up with a way to prevent it from occurring in the future. Just because things worked out once does not mean that it will again in the future.

Near misses are situations where an accident almost occurred, but fortunately, did not. For example, if a moving crane base nearly trapped someone in the area in a pinch point, but stopped before there was an injury. Having a near miss like this reported may give the operator and safety manager an opportunity to make a change that can prevent this type of thing from happening again.

When it comes to reporting accidents and near misses, it is important to make sure that employees know that this is not a way to look to get people in trouble. As long as there was no negligence on the part of the people involved, they should not get in trouble for an accident. This will help to ensure they are comfortable reporting these types of issues, which will be essential for keeping your crane safety processes up to date and as effective as possible.

Regulatory Compliance

Keeping your employees and other people safe is the most important reason for having a good crane safety policy in place. In addition to that, however, you will benefit from remaining in compliance with regulations from OSHA and other agencies.

There are many different rules and regulations in place when it comes to when, where, and how cranes can be used. Most of these regulations are there to help ensure the safety of anyone in the area. Taking the time to learn about all applicable regulations will help you to avoid any type of fines or penalties from these agencies.

Learning about the various regulatory requirements is important not only so you can stay in compliance, but also to help improve safety. The regulations are put in place because the agencies know that there are hazards associated with not doing things the way they demand. By following the OSHA’s crane regulations you will be taking significant steps toward ensuring you have at least a base level of safety in place for your crane operations.

Initial and Ongoing Training

As with any safety program, it is not enough to just get it down on paper. You also need to make sure that everyone in your facility is aware of the program and following it. This means providing your team with the training that they need. Initially this will likely start with just the crane operators and those who work directly around this type of machinery.

Once the key staff are trained up on how to stay safe when working with and around cranes, you will also want to provide the rest of your team with training. Just about everyone will at least occasionally work around heavy equipment, including cranes. Giving them the base level of safety training that they need to keep everyone as safe as possible.

One last thing to note is that it is not enough to give people (especially crane operators) a one-time training and be done with it. Most facilities will want to provide training to their team at least annually to ensure they are always working with the latest policies and procedures. The more you can do to improve crane safety, the better off everyone in your company will be.


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