Sometimes, the job site doesn’t come with a lot of elbow room. Tight spaces are ringed with hazards in the form of lots of workers, equipment and nearby structures.
That’s why mobile crane operators have to be mindful of the risk of serious injury, death, of accidents where no one is harmed but where materials and equipment are damaged and of losing time, putting the project behind schedule.
Mobile cranes are ideal for lifting loads where there isn’t much space to move around, but a miscalculation can spell disaster in these situations. That’s why there’s a strong business case for making the job site as safe as possible.
Kinds of Mobile Cranes
An operator can find himself in the cab of quite a few different machines that are called "mobile cranes.” However, for certifications and safety purposes, the main types of cranes are as follows:
- In a fixed cab crane, the driver is stationary and is always looking forward;
- A swing cab crane allows the operator to turn 360 degrees, performing work in all directions;
- A lattice boom crane performs lifts in a straight up-and-down movement, the boom being the part of a crane that does the heavy lifting;
- Hydraulic boom cranes (also called telescopic boom cranes) feature maneuverable booms that can raise up and down like a lattice boom, but the arm can also be extended and retracted. The boom can also rotate left or right.
OSHA Designations Reflect Level of Training
What makes the mobile crane so versatile is its footprint and mobility. The footprint is the area required to set up a crane to position its outriggers to hoist the load while remaining inside the crane chart requirements.
It takes specific levels of training and experience to do this correctly. In the crane industry, we hear about competent, qualified and certified persons. What’s the difference?
- A Competent Person is "capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards …. And has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” In general, a competent person has knowledge relative to the job and authority to take remedial action when something is wrong.
- A Qualified Person is someone with "a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training and experience, successfully demonstrates the ability to solve/resolve problems” relating to the job. A certificate of training would count, as would many years of experience in the field even if it never included any classroom training.
- A Certified Person is one who has passed "written and practical exams related to the work that he will perform.” Certification testing for crane operators, riggers and signal persons are offered by accredited organizations such as the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and others.
OSHA 29 CFR 1926.1400 requires riggers and signal persons working with mobile cranes to be Qualified Persons, meaning certification is optional but recommended. All mobile crane operators working in construction, on the other hand, must be Certified Persons.
Preliminary Inspections Matter
Before a job, a Qualified Person must provide proof of an annual safety inspection that meets Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Labor regulations, as well as any state regulations where the project is located.
In many states, cranes that perform lifts with the jib attachment or rolling outriggers must have a current certification showing that the jib and rolling outriggers have been proof load tested by a Qualified Person. (This is a stress test to demonstrate the fitness of a load-bearing structure or rescue strop. These requirements only apply to telescopic and lattice boom cranes.)
Damaged or modified slings must not be used. Alloy steel chain slings, if used, should have permanently affixed information about size, grade, rated capacity and inspection date.
Metal mesh slings must have their rated capacity for vertical basket and choker hitch loadings attached. Finally, natural fiber and synthetic fiber rope slings and wire rope slings should be carefully inspected for evidence of heat damage, corrosion, wear and broken wires or fibers.
In all states, a durable load chart must be kept within the operator’s reach during operation. This chart contains a complete range of crane load ratings consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Warnings about equipment limitations should also be included in the load charts.
Critical Lifts Require Additional Planning
A critical lift is a lift that (1) exceeds 75 percent of the rated capacity of the crane or (2) requires the use of more than one crane or derrick to perform. A written lift plan is needed when performing these lifts. The plan should include information about the crane, load chart data, detailed diagrams of the lift, an analysis of soil and subsurface conditions, an emergency action plan and more.
Safe Lifts Are No Accident
Every load lifted should be properly rigged; in other words, it should be well secured and balanced in the sling. The hoist rope should not be kinked, and the multiple part lines should not be twisted. The operator should bring the hook over the load—avoiding swinging—and, once the load is attached, avoid lifting it over other workers.
When a load approaching the rated load is to be lifted, the operator should apply the crane’s brakes to test them after raising the load a few inches.
While the load is suspended, the operator must remain aware of the appropriate chains, hoist and sling requirements. He should not lower the load below the point where fewer than three full wraps remain on the hoisting drum.
Preparation and attention to detail require mobile crane operators, the owner/contractor who hires them and the workers who are part of the project to have a plan that is established and documented in advance of a job.
Competent, Certified or Qualified persons will work with the safety officer and other relevant personnel to implement the system whether the lift is carried out at a construction site, petrochemical plant or loading dock.
LC Crane Parts and Service technicians have been through proper safety training. We’re here to make sure your mobile cranes are ready for safe and reliable operations.
We have had zero recordable safety incidents in the nearly six years since we opened for business. Contact us today to discover how we can provide all the parts and maintenance needed to keep your cranes up and your business running smoothly.