Lift With Confidence: Improving Crane Operator Safety at Any Height


Big projects mean big rewards. But they can can also spell big risks. Considering the type of projects crane manufacturers and operators work on, it should come as no surprise that safety rules and regulations are constantly evolving to address inherent risks within the working environment.

As there are always risks to working from a certain height, operators must take care to acknowledge the inherent risks their role presents. Failure to perform safe operations of construction site cranes can lead to major injuries for both the operator and innocent bystanders.

When working with such heavy loads, a minute mistake can spell disaster.

It is important employees onsite do not underestimate the dangers involved with crane operation. Potential issues can be avoided if necessary precautions are taken. Employing safety measures and applying proper operation techniques will ensure accidents are prevented.

This article outlines several key safety tips to help workers stay safe. It will cover all aspects of crane operation safety, from training all the way to crane malfunctions.

1. Safety Training

Before any employee operates a crane, certain safety considerations must be adhered to; the first being the acquisition of crane operator certificates and licenses.

The Australian Government, through the Department of Education and Training, issues certificates in crane operations to those who have successfully completed the applicable certification programs. The awarding of these documents to crane operators ensures that set standards on crane operations handling and procedures are understood and adhered to.

All candidates who undergo the program must be able to clearly demonstrate skills and knowledge deemed necessary for safe performance. This includes meeting all physical requirements, having knowledge of crane operations and safety, and a comprehensive understanding of the various types of work performed by crane operators, signal persons, and riggers.

Such certifications, including those issued by international certifying bodies such as the Crane Institute Certification (CIC), not-for-profit National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), and the Operating Engineers Certification Program (OECP), are awarded only to those who have successfully hurdle both written and practical tests administered by such establishments.

Additionally, according to the Australian Government website, “Successful completion of the high risk work and heavy vehicle licensing units within the qualification must align with licensing and regulatory requirements applicable to relevant national, state and territory regulatory requirements.”

Such certifications are a formal recognition that the operator in question knows how to safely operate, signal, and rig cranes.

2. Pre-operational inspection

For crane operators, conducting a pre-operational inspection ensures a safe working environment, regardless of the role, industry, or job.

It’s important to create a checklist before operation so that everything is confirmed to be in optimal working condition. Your checklist should include important steps and safety procedures to confirm that all equipment is operational and in good working condition before each shift.

Crane safety Procedures

Whether you’re a new or experienced operator, below are some essential crane safety procedures that should be included in your checklist.

  • Rigging gear. This should be inspected before each shift as faulty rigging gear can contribute to load drops.
  • Ensure the upper limit switch is working properly before the start of each shift.
  • Observe the location of the power disconnect switch for the runway to prevent accidents and/or injuries in the event that the crane continues down the runway after the radio control button has been released.
  • Examine the loading chain, ensuring it is not faulty in any aspect.
  • Locate the place and positions of hooks.
  • Confirm that the hoist is in operational condition.

Adhering to the above checklist is one method of ensuring that proper rigging techniques and crane operations are fully optimized to minimize the risks of dropped loads and other common safety hazards associated with crane operations.

3. Awareness

Before, during and after the operation of a crane, operators must remain watchful and observant of various potential hazards that may pose a risk to the overall safety of the work environment.

This includes considering the location of power lines, nearby buildings or any other physical components which may present risks within the crane’s swing radius. Part of this vigilance should also include considering the ground conditions upon which the crane is being operated on.

Being alert and observant also means not operating a crane if you feel unwell and have insufficient rest and sleep. It also means ensuring other workers onsite are operating at a safe distance from crane equipment, and that no workers are standing or performing any tasks under a load.

It’s important that cranes are not operated under harsh weather conditions or certain physically challenging situations. This can include high or gusty winds, loose or sandy soil, a location near a cliff or eroding area, or any other ground conditions that pose a threat to the crane being supported well onsite.

4. Familiarity with equipment

Operating a building site crane requires operators to have specific knowledge regarding the types of cranes they will be working on. Specifications such as lift capacity, load chart, and crane rating all have a role in determining how much of a load a crane can carry for optimal operation. Such information can be found through the crane’s manufacturer or the employing construction company.

Before the start of any shift, operators must consider the crane rating to prevent accidents from happening such as a crane tip or boom collapse, due to overloading. Other considerations that must be made are the limitations of the equipment needed to lift a load. This includes wires and chains and the load weight and dimensions,

Understanding the crane’s limits and capacity ensures operators work within optimal conditions, and safe performance is ensured.

5. Appropriate use of equipment

The role of a crane is to service loads via vertical lifting. They have been optimally engineered to perform that role. When working as an operator, resist the temptation of using a crane for anything other than vertical lifting.

Crew of employing construction companies may use the crane for unsuitable activities such as side loading, man baskets, or storage. All of these activities create hazards that put not only the crane operator at risk but also other workers, and the construction firm in question.

While some of these activities may be seen as common practice in some construction firms, the risk associated with such misuse can lead to component failure, impairing a crane’s structural integrity.

Each crane is different from the other, and as such, they have been engineered to perform specific tasks. Operating cranes for other purposes besides their specific applications can create unnecessary hazards and danger for everyone at the job site.

The continuing growth in the number of construction projects means construction companies and equipment operators must continue to be aware of present risks when making use of expensive heavy equipment that are a potential source of work-related accidents and injuries. Strictly implementing crane operations safety begins with each and every operator — from new operators to the more experienced ones.

Like any other aspect of construction work, addressing common safety hazards associated with site operations, and ensuring your people are experts at what they are doing greatly decrease the chances of any untoward incidents from happening onsite, crane operation-related or otherwise.


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