How do Crane Operators’ maintain a safe work site?

The crane operator has many responsibilities. They must be fully familiarized with the crane manufacturer’s O&M manual and load charts for the cranes they are dispatched to operate. When they have consulted the O&M manual procedures for the crane’s specific re-configuration, they should conduct a job site safety meeting with the personnel under their supervision. The operator should inform the personnel on the manufacturer’s procedures for reconfiguration, such as proper pin placement and sequence. Operators should make sure they swing cranes in controlled manner, and to never suspend the crane over personnel, unless the personnel are required to land the load. Operators must not permit anyone to ride the hook or load. If there are any technical difficulties with the crane manufacturer’s procedures on any crane re-configuration, operators must contact their shop managers for help. If the lift is critical or sensitive, pre-planning meetings are required. Before leaving the crane, the operator has the responsibility to land the load, place all control leavers in neutral, secure the crane against travel, set all brakes and locking devices, and shut off the engine. Whenever there is a concern for safety, the operator has the authority to stop and refuse to handle loads, until a qualified person determines that everything meets OSHA safety standards. 

OSHA Regulations for Crane Operations

Operators can meet OSHA’s certification requirements through three ways. First, operators can obtain certification through an accredited third party crane certification organization. Second, employers can develop an employer-audited program to certify operators. Finally, operators can obtain a state or local crane operator license.

Operator certification was required in OSHA’s 2010 crane rule. However, the effective date of the requirement was pushed back until November 10, 2018. Thus, the vast majority of individuals operating cranes did not need certification to operate cranes until the effective date of requirement was introduced, creating an industry of uncertified operators. The new rule removed the requirement that certifications include lifting capacity of cranes, and did not change the date for when operators must be certified. Two testing organizations that have certified the majority of operators have issued certifications by type of crane, but not capacity. OSHA concluded that the capacity requirement for certification is not “necessary” to protect workers. The agency is concerned that making the certification process too rigorous will cause a shortage of certified operators that will disrupt the construction industry. Ultimately, removing standards to the already lenient certification standards makes the certification process unsafe. Our Best Boston Workers Compensation Attorney can investigate and review what happened if you are injured due to a disregard in OSHA regulations.

Employer Responsibilities of Crane Operation 

OSHA makes permanent the duty of the employer to ensure that operators are competent to operate equipment safely. OSHA writes that certification “does not ensure that operators know how to operate a particular crane for specific tasks”. Certification, thus, is a baseline test that does not provide knowledge to operate a crane safely. Employers are required to assess the ability of their operators to run cranes. However, these employer assessments do not need to be conducted by someone with crane certification, and has no rules on how to assess operators’ knowledge of the crane. Thus, employers could easily pass operators under any test they devise, with any competency of crane operation they deem acceptable. 

Employers must evaluate operators to ensure that the operator has skills, knowledge, and ability to recognize and avert risk to operate the equipment safely. This subjective test has no rules or standards to decide when the skills to operate cranes have been met, and thus, can easily be abused by operators who lack sufficient training. The evaluation must be conducted by a person who has by a person that the employer determines has knowledge, training, and experience necessary to assess operators. When operators have passed an evaluation for one piece of equipment, employers can allow operators to operate different equipment without evaluation. Employers need to demonstrate that operating that equipment would not require substantially different skills, knowledge, or ability to identify and avert risk. The evaluation needs to be documented and have the operator’s name, the evaluator’s name and signature, date of evaluation, and the make, model and configuration of the evaluation available on the worksite for as long as the operator is employed by the employer. Employers must evaluate when operators need retraining, such as when certification has expired. Thus, it is the responsibility of the employers to determine operators are able to safely operate equipment.  

Communication With Riggers 

OSHA requires Standard Hand Signals be used to communicate between crane operator and rigger, through a signal person. Signals other than hand, voice, or audible signals may be used when the employer demonstrates that new signals are “equally effective communication” as voice, audible, or standard method hand signals. The operator should respond to the Standard Hand Signals for mobile cranes. Operators must obey stop signals at all times, no matter who gives it. If the load of the crane is uncontrolled, due to forces such as wind, movement, shifting, or rigging failure, the operator must react with their best ability to keep the load under control. If communication with the signal person is lost, the crane movement must be stopped until contact is regained. The hand signals must be conducted by an appointed signal person. These signals cover a variety of actions. The hand signals cover the following crane actions: hoist, lower, use main hoist, use whipline, raise boom, lower boom, move slowly, raise boom and lower load, lower boom and raise load, swing, stop, emergency stop, travel, dog everything, travel (both tracks), extend boom, and retract boom.

The Responsibility of Safety Officials Onsite 

The Site Supervisor is responsible for determining the accurate load weight and radius, and providing the crane operator with the information. The director must ensure the rigging crew is experienced, competent, and qualified. They must designate signal persons, and identify them to the operator. These supervisors are controlling the movements of all personnel within the area affected by the lift, as they are responsible for workers maintaining safe distances from the crane, unless directed otherwise. Before and during hoisting operations, the supervisor must check that the load is secured and balanced in the lifting device. 

The assembly and disassembly of the crane is conducted by the assembly and disassembly director. They are responsible for reviewing the necessary procedures with the crew, immediately prior to conducting work. The crew must be informed by the director on their tasks, and to avoid hazardous danger zones. The director must verify the capacities of the equipment that is used. The director is responsible for identifying hazards with the operation to the crew. Minimum safe approach distances must be maintained between the crane and the moving parts of the crane. Equipment should not be assembled or used on ground that is not firm enough to support the use of the cranes. Finally, these directors must make sure not to allow the crane to be assembled or disassembled under power lines. 

Oilers’ Responsibilities to Assist Operators 

The oilers have many duties to assist their operators. In assisting an operator, an oil shoup helps the operator identify a clear swinging path that is free of obstructions. Oilers should assist the operator in ensuring the crane’s swing is within the radius barricade. They should help assist the operator in maintaining Minimum Safe Approach Distances (MSAD), between the crane and electrical sources during operations and transit. They should assure that the Standard Hand Signals for mobile cranes from the signal person are performed properly. If the communication with the signal person is lost, oilers should stop crane movement immediately. They should never all be unqualified or unauthorized to operate a crane. They should assist the operator’s completion with necessary inspection and OSHA paperwork. While the operator follows the crane set up procedures, the oiler should assist the operator throughout the process. 

If you or a loved one was injured in a crane accident, you may be dealing with mounting medical bills, long-term economic loss, or the emotional aftermath of a terrible death. It is critical to contact our Boston personal injury attorney with extensive expertise in workplace accident cases at the Bellotti Law Group P.C., as soon as possible.


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