As with so many things in life, it’s the little things that make a big difference. The same holds true of overhead lifting equipment and its operation: paying attention to the small details can have a big impact on the safety and productivity of a facility.
That’s why the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), an organization dedicated to promoting the standardization of crane design and operation — as well as uniform quality and performance — works hard to meet its mission. That is, to deliver technical specifications and resources that promote safety in the design, operation, and maintenance of overhead cranes.
Even after poring over those specifications, standards, and resources, owners and operators of cranes often still have questions. Many of those questions surround some of the key details that should be taken into consideration when buying, operating, maintaining, and inspecting overhead lifting equipment.
The Overhead Lifting Best Practices Guide gives owners and operators of overhead lifting equipment a comprehensive, single-source reference about some of the key tools and techniques — including the little details — that contribute to a safer operation. As the current President of CMAA and having worked in the industry myself for 20 years, I have seen the operational safety and productivity benefits that result from following these guidelines and standards. The 18 best-practice topics include:
Qualifications of overhead crane and hoist operator to ensure that personnel have been properly trained to safely use the equipment.
Fall protection for crane structures, specifically lifelines and harnesses that have been properly designed to prevent or stop the accidental fall of workers and their tools while working at height.
Capacity markings on cranes, hoists, and monorails to indicate to an operator the maximum rated load the system was designed to handle.
Safety signs — such as decals, labels, placards, cord tags, or other markings — indicate hazards and the safety precautions that should be taken to avoid them.
Audible and visible warning alarms that indicate to the operator and other personnel in the area of the crane’s operation that the equipment is in use.
Load tests to verify that the equipment will perform all functions (lift, lower, travel the length of the bridge and of the runway) while supporting a test load equal to the maximum rated capacity of the equipment. These are performed at commissioning, after any modifications are made, and during certain inspections.
Conductor bar systems, specifically bare uninsulated copper wire conductors positioned along the length of a runway to supply power to overhead equipment, and a fourth, unpowered bar for grounding the system.
Conductor bar guards and how to attach and maintain them so that they prevent inadvertent contact of power wires with hoist ropes, block, or load.
Upper limit switches are designed to cut off the power automatically at (or near) the maximum limit of travel for a crane motion, such as lift/lower, trolley traverse, or bridge traverse. This prevents damage to the overhead equipment that may result in a load drop.
E-stops and safety disconnects, their location, accessibility, and how they are to be used to cut off the power to the overhead handling equipment outside of the regular operating controls in the event of an emergency or loss of control.
E-stops for powered, below-the-hook devices that attach a load to the hook, such as vacuum lifters, electro-magnets, and grippers. These E-stops operate independently of the overall crane system, allowing the operator to disengage the power solely for the below-the-hook device if an emergency or malfunction occurs.
Runway disconnect switches provide a backup to an E-stop as a second means to disconnect power to the crane if a malfunction or emergency happens.
Rail sweeps, mounted in front of the wheels on bridge and trolley end trucks, ensure that any debris or obstructions in the travel path are bumped off the railway. They prevent damage to crane wheels, axles, and bearings, as well as stop objects from passing between the rail and wheels, which could cause a derailment.
Trolley and bridge bumpers made of rubber, polyurethane, springs, or a hydraulic device that minimizes the force of an impact when a trolley or bridge reaches the end of its permitted travel or contacts the rail end stops at a high rate of speed. They prevent structural damage to the crane, runway, and building and should be routinely maintained and inspected.
Bridge and trolley brakes for slowing, stopping, holding, and controlling motion. Operators should be trained in their proper use. They save wear and tear on the bridge and trolley, as well as prevent a load from running into and damaging equipment or injuring personnel. They should be routinely maintained and inspected.
Guards for couplings and line shafts, whether fixed or removable, serve as a safety barrier that prevents access to dangerous areas. Any moving parts of a crane or hoist that might pose a hazard during normal operation must be guarded to prevent injury.
End stops limit trolley or crane bridge travel. Typically mounted to a fixed structure, they prevent damage to the equipment and are designed to engage the full surface of a bumper. They should be maintained and inspected regularly.
Chain containers capture and store slack hoist chains on the no-load side of the load sheave. Their use is recommended when an excess load chain is likely to interfere with the load or to create a hazard to operations or personnel.
Many of the 18 topics discussed are covered by requirements outside of those from CMAA, HMI, MMA, and OSHA. Pertinent standards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the National Electrical Code (NEC) are also included. Each topic has a list of best practices for how to interpret those requirements, as well as how to implement or follow their directions, to create the safest overhead lifting environment possible.
Overhead Lifting Best Practices Guide is offered as a free download. I encourage you to add a copy to your library of resources. If you have any questions about the topics it covers — or about any other best practices in the safe operation and maintenance of your overhead handling equipment and its numerous safety features and devices — don’t hesitate to connect with American Crane. Our online Resources Library includes a collection of informative eBooks, videos, CAD drawings, photos, and a crane glossary.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact us. We’re happy to help.
Manufacturers invest substantial resources outfitting their facilities with efficient overhead crane equipment, and it forms a critical part of daily operations. With a wide variety of uses in the automotive, aerospace, and energy industries, maintaining a high-quality crane ensures that your facility will operate at peak productivity and safety.
Though we all dream of everlasting equipment, the reality is that consistent use will wear down both mechanical and electrical components over time. Your overhead crane or hoist equipment won’t be top of the line forever, so it’s important to understand how and when your equipment requires maintenance. Additionally, sometimes repairs and modernization cost more than they’re worth, making it necessary to recognize cases where you may need to replace your crane entirely.
Working with old or obsolete equipment will drive up maintenance costs and decrease your plant’s efficiency. But how do you know it’s time to invest the capital to upgrade your equipment? Below, we assembled eight tell-tale signs that it’s time to overhaul your overhead equipment.
8 Signs It’s Time for an Upgrade
1. Your Crane Incurs Multiple Repairs
Older cranes require more upkeep and repairs, increasing your facility’s downtime while you order parts and perform maintenance. Repeated unplanned downtimes caused by faulty equipment can incur hefty costs beyond replacing parts. If your crane has to undergo multiple repairs just to perform its basic functions, it’s time to call a specialist to evaluate it’s condition.
2. Expired Warranties on Major Components
Most crane parts come with manufacturer or supplier warranties extending over long periods of time. The length of a warranty also acts as a good measure of the part’s lifespan. Therefore, finding yourself repairing equipment with expired warranties may be a dead giveaway that it’s time for a new crane.
3. Your Requirements and Processes Have Changed
If you find your cranes lift different, heavier, or higher volumes of materials than those for which they were originally designed, don’t wait to make a change! Your lifting equipment may require faster speeds or more precise controls as you scale up your facility. Straining old machinery to meet new demand could end in downtime or injury.
4. You Can Only Fix Your Crane with Rare and Expensive Parts
As crane technology improves, old crane parts become obsolete and difficult to find. If the supply landscape has decided that it’s no longer worth building your crane parts, you might have to find a more modern and up-to-date crane.
5. Your Crane Injures Workers
Be mindful of the number of injuries, equipment issues, and malfunctions surrounding your crane. If your crane regularly breaks and injures workers, it goes without saying that it’s time to consider new options.
6. Outdated Technology Results in Inefficient Production Times
More and more cranes are incorporating pendant or radio controls in their designs. These new innovations allow the operator to have a clearer vantage point from the ground to identify and react to obstacles, personnel, and hazards as the crane moves.
7. Your Equipment Fails Inspections
You should regularly evaluate crane equipment to OSHA, AME, and CMAA standards. Regular inspections will identify any signs of wear or irregularities, allowing you to proactively address issues and avoid potential fines or legal action.
8. Your Crane Takes On More Critical Tasks
When crane functions become more central to your facility’s functioning, it may be time to evaluate its abilities to perform under greater stress or consider adding an additional crane for these critical tasks. Accounting for all the points in the following checklist will ensure smooth operation as lift loads become more critical.
Does the lift exceed 75% of your crane’s capacity?
Does the lift require multiple cranes?
Will workers have to manipulate the load outside the operator’s view?
Does the lift involve an unusually technical rigging arrangement?
Could damaging the load produce serious monetary losses?
Would damaging the load cause serious delays to important project timelines?
Optimize Your Lifting Equipment with American Crane
Our expert team at American Crane will get your equipment back up and running in an efficient and cost-effective manner. If you think it’s time to replace your overhead crane, contact our professional crane technicians and evaluators for personalized consultations.
Interested in reading more before chatting with us? Be sure to download our Crane Buyers Guide to see what updates or replacements we offer for your applications!
Almost any industry utilizes overhead cranes and hoists. There is a wide variety of overhead lifting equipment to fit any use, so how can you select the right equipment for your particular application? Since crane choice is so important for workers’ safety as well as maintenance and inspection requirements, the Crane Manufacturers’ Association of America (CMAA) has established crane service classifications to make it easier to choose.
Crane & Hoist Classifications
Class A – Infrequent or Standby
These cranes are best for precise handling at slow speeds. They are good choices for powerhouses, public utilities, turbine rooms, motor rooms, and transformer stations.
Class B – Light Service
This class is ideal for environments with light service requirements and low speed needs. They can handle two to five lifts per hour, and work well for repair shops, light assembly operations, service buildings, and light warehousing.
Class C – Moderate Service
These cranes are built for use in machine shops, papermill machine rooms, and other such environments with moderate service requirements. They can handle loads that average 50% of the rated capacity, making five to ten lifts per hour, with not over 50% of the lifts at rated capacity.
Class D – Heavy Service
These cranes may be used in heavy machine shops, foundries, fabricating plants, steel warehouses, container yards, lumber mills, etc., and standard duty bucket and magnet operations where heavy-duty production is required. In this type of service with 10 to 20 lifts per hour averaging 15 feet, not over 65 percent of the lifts at rated capacity.
Class E – Severe Service
These cranes are capable of handling loads approaching a rated capacity throughout its life. Applications may include magnet, bucket, magnet/bucket combination cranes for scrap yards, cement mills, lumber mills, fertilizer plants, container handling, etc., with twenty of more lifts per hour at or near the rated capacity.
Class F – Continuous Severe Service
These cranes must be capable of handling loads approaching rated capacity continuously under severe service conditions throughout its life. Applications may include custom designed specialty cranes essential to performing the critical work tasks affecting the total production facility. These cranes must provide the highest reliability with special attention to ease of maintenance features.
Crane Selection Criteria
So what class crane best suites your particular manufacturing needs and environment? Review the following important criteria when selecting the right overhead crane:
Speed – Measured in lifts per hour, this is how quickly the crane is able to move materials and equipment.
Service – The crane’s frequency of use.
Distance – The distance a crane needs to move the lifted materials.
Rated Capacity – The average rated load of materials moved determines rated capacity.
Maintenance Requirements – How often the crane needs to be serviced.
Service Conditions – The environment in which a crane will operate, and its access for servicing, are important factors.
Strength of Our Products
At American Crane & Equipment Corporation, our cranes are manufactured to CMAA Specifications 70 or 74. We can also supply cranes that meet ASME, NUM-1 and NOG-1 requirements.
Our products are carefully manufactured to meet each customer’s specific need.
Our equipment can be used in critical environments where safety cannot be compromised.
We make our products to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Our equipment is built with quality, reliability, and enhanced safety in mind.
We have a large inventory of parts and components available to be shipped the same day.
When in Doubt, Consult the Experts
For over 40 years, American Crane & Equipment Corporation has been one of the most innovative manufacturers of high-quality, specialty lifting solutions for unique applications and environments. Our overhead crane solutions experts are available to answer any questions you have about crane installation, operation, and maintenance as they relate to your particular industry. Download our eBook, Understanding Crane and Hoist Classifications, for answers to your product questions.
You can also contact the American Crane team now by clicking here.
For companies requiring overhead lifting operations, taking steps to avoid crane failure is critical to ensuring the safety of workers and overall efficiency of operations. No matter the specific industry or type of job site, taking a number of simple precautions can greatly reduce the risk of overhead crane failure.
Before operators use cranes, technicians should inspect them in accordance with the guidelines of CMAA Specification 78 as well as any relevant federal, state, and local requirements. Employing high-quality, reliable inspecting equipment is critical for determining whether any mechanical problems are present that may lead to accidents. Inspections should involve checking for cracks, faulty wiring, worn-out ropes, and damaged parts. Crane technicians must also make sure the crane doesn’t exceed rated capacity and that all safety devices are working properly.
For any company utilizing overhead cranes, standard inspections are required and must be thoroughly documented. OSHA and CMAA Specification 78 outline the following basic requirements for inspections:
Initial inspection — This consists of an inspection in accordance with the original manufacturer’s recommendations, as well as documentation of the inspection.
Pre-shift inspection — This consists of an inspection in accordance with crane-operator
Frequent inspections — These include visual and operational inspections performed by a qualified crane inspector. Specific inspection schedules will vary depending upon the equipment, rated capacity, service class, and size of the crane. Some applications may even require daily inspections. Items to be inspected may include hooks, wire ropes, load chains, brakes, reeving, and limit switches. Any fluid leakage or unusual sounds should also be identified and analyzed.
Periodic inspections — These consist of detailed visual and operation inspections, in which individual components are examined to determine their condition. In addition to the items checked during the frequent inspection, structural members, connections, sheaves and drums, electrical components, bumpers, and below-the-hook devices may also need inspection during periodic checks.
Reporting — All inspections must be documented and maintained on file. Companies must implement a written and documented crane inspection and maintenance program.
OSHA also provides the following guidelines for proactively preventing crane accidents:
Load test certification — All new and altered cranes are required to be tested under and meet OSHA Part 1910.179 standards.
Rated capacity should be legibly marked on the product.
Warning and safety information should be included.
All equipment in a job site should have appropriate signs and warning labels.
Accidents can also be avoided through the completion of field-level hazard assessments, which include:
Identifying all risks associated with the required tasks
Evaluating the severity of all risks associated with identified hazards
Working to eliminate or control hazards prior to and during work tasks
Companies should complete, communicate, and follow a plan with operators, riggers, and other workers regarding:
Load weight and equipment capacity
Possible job site hazards
The integrity of the equipment
And to improve the safety and reliability of processes, it’s important to make use of critical crane components such as:
Slow-down and stop-limit switches
Overload-limiting devices and weigh scales with readouts
Training programs for operator and maintenance personnel
Training your personnel in operation safety and maintenance will allow risks to be identified quickly, before serious problems can occur; qualified technicians should inspect cranes on a consistent basis. Make sure you train operators to perform thorough pre-shift equipment inspections as well, and keep in mind that different crane models and applications will require different operating and maintenance procedures, so be sure operators are referencing the correct operation and maintenance literature for your equipment.
All technicians must receive formal training in their areas of expertise, and are expected to be properly trained and tested in the following areas:
Trade skills, such as basic electricity and wiring practices, as well as basic mechanical, machinery, aligning and rigging practices
Safe crane operating practices, including rigging, hand signals, starting/stopping and controlling loads, and the dos and don’ts of safe operation
Training on how to maintain, troubleshoot, and repair common crane components
Basic job-site safety training
Training on how to properly use and operate tools and equipment
Job site conduct
Along with completing required training, employees are also expected to have completed any requirements outlined in a company’s safety statement, safety orientation process, and any other certifications or documentation. Ensuring staff is well-trained and up-to-date on safety guidelines will help prevent accidents and injuries.
And lastly, it’s crucial for all workers to stay focused and communicative throughout all processes. Below are some basic tips for ensuring work areas remain as safe as possible.
Remain alert, especially on critical or difficult lifts.
Perform a pre-job brief to review the task procedure and risk-mitigation requirements.
Use radios, warning lights, and hand signals when necessary to ensure everyone knows what instructions and safety precautions to follow.
Make sure that personnel know whom to contact if repairs become necessary.
Crane owners are increasingly requesting certification to ensure that the individuals inspecting their cranes are fully qualified. To demonstrate their crane inspecting qualifications, many inspectors rely on Specification 78, published by the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), as the most widely accepted industry standard.
Even the most experienced crane technician benefits greatly from getting certified, in ways such as:
Enhanced and Continuing Education: Certification promotes education and continued education for technicians throughout their careers. This leads an employee to be more productive, which can lead to lower costs and better efficiencies.
Reduced Risk of Inspection Oversight: Certification drastically decreases the risk that a technician will miss something during an inspection and creates a safer work environment for all employees involved in crane operation.
Awareness of Industry Updates: As certifications expire, a technician must come back for training to prepare for re-certification. In the process of doing so, they learn about any new changes in safety standards, technical papers, and manufacturers’ recommendations.
What Does Crane Inspection Certification Training Cover?
Columbus McKinnon Corporation (CMCO)’s Crane and Hoist Inspection and Certification training was professionally developed by our full-time training staff. The program, the most comprehensive training course available in the industry today, applies to all brands of cranes and hoists.
Columbus McKinnon certified crane inspectors receive 24 hours of specialized training covering all aspects of cranes and hoists, including suspension, structure, motors, controls, gears, wheels, brakes, testing, and more.
In CMCO’s newly built 3,000 sq.ft., state-of-the-art training center, a 20-foot, top-running crane structure allows classes to perform hands-on inspections as they would in the real world. To add another layer of complexity into the practical evaluation of the crane technician, the course instructor intentionally incorporates deficiencies into the crane during the test inspection.
By the end of the course, a CMCO certified technician is knowledgeable of OSHA regulations, familiar with all pertinent ASME standards, and has passed a challenging written examination. Inspectors certified by Columbus McKinnon meet — and often even exceed — the requirements of CMAA Specification 78.
Many of our Channel Partners, like American Crane & Equipment Corporation, have taken advantage of CMCO’s Crane and Hoist Inspection Certification training. By investing considerable time and resources to certify their inspection personnel, American Crane & Equipment Corporation ensures that the inspections their team conducts for customers are thorough, accurate, and honest.
Over the past 50 years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) specifications for crane safety have remained relatively unchanged. To begin enhancing the training and safety opportunities in the overhead lifting industry, OSHA has recently renewed a five-year alliance with the Crane, Hoist and Monorail Alliance (CHM).
The partnership demonstrates OSHA’s confidence in CHM as a trusted resource in an ongoing effort to increase workers’ safety. In a recent EHS Today article, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said, “Our alliance with CHM has been invaluable in helping to reduce and prevent serious or fatal incidents in the material handling industry.”
To follow the example that these industry leaders have set, here are six ways that you can increase crane safety within your own facility:
Create Accountability with Your Inspection — Develop written guidelines for your crane and hoist inspection and maintenance programs; implement this code to train every operator on proper crane equipment use and safety protocol.
Schedule Your Inspections — Create a pre-planned schedule to stay on top of equipment functionality through preventative maintenance. Having a schedule will help to avert any breakdown repairs by ensuring that your equipment always meets the necessary safety requirements.
Read the Manual — It may sound silly, but it is crucial that every operator has read the manufacturers’ operation manuals. Implementing this practice will add an extra level of protection at your facility.
Conduct Pre-Shift Inspections — Crane operators should understand the applicable OSHA, national, state, and local inspection requirements for their machinery and ensure that all products are in compliance with these specifications at the start of each shift.
Implement a Lockout/Tagout Procedure — Lockout procedures safeguard employees by cutting equipment off from the energy source before any maintenance work. This precaution helps prevent accidental or unexpected operation from stored energy, as well as the resulting risk of injury.
Know Your Equipment’s Limits — Employees should always be aware of crane load limits as well as the capacities of each payload.
By taking these simple precautions, you can increase everyday workplace safety for your operators. To learn more about how to increase crane safety in your facility, we invite you to download our maintenance troubleshooting guide, “What Your Cranes Wish You Knew.”
Industrial material movers can be divided into two categories: on-floor and overhead. More and more businesses are discovering the advantages of replacing their traditional on-floor movers, such as trucks, forklifts, and fixed conveyors, with overhead equipment for material handling within facilities. Overhead movers include three main types: cranes, hoists, and monorails.
Cranes utilize hooks, hoists, magnets, and other devices to transport loads. A crane’s operational range depends on the axes and rotational capabilities.
Hoists are simple but adaptable pieces of machinery that use wires, ropes, or chains to move freely suspended loads. Hoists can be powered manually, electrically, or by air. Monorails operate like overhead conveyors; they run along fixed paths in the ceiling using a single circuit or network of routes.
Compared to on-floor movers, each type of overhead material handling system provides the following benefits:
Reduced footprint — Cranes and hoists require some floor-based support structures, but these can be strategically placed at facility edges and corners to minimize their footprint. Monorails run on tracks installed directly into the ceiling and, therefore, leave no footprint on the floor at all.
Improved health and safety — Overhead movers reduce physical labor, which enhances ergonomics and removes employees from potential danger zones.
More power — Cranes, hoists, and monorails are typically stronger than on-floor systems. They have greater load capabilities and more lifting mechanisms to handle a variety of loads.
Increased productivity — Overhead movers allow for direct-path transportation, as opposed to on-floor movers that must navigate around various obstacles on the floor. The fixed monorail system reduces the opportunity for human error, which in turn lowers production losses.
Traditional on-floor material handlers create many facility limitations. Bulky ride-on movers generate clutter and restrict floor space because they require wide pathways and intersections to maneuver. Even when they are not in operation, forklifts and ride-on movers take up a large amount of space on the floor and get in the way of production.
On-floor machinery also depends on employee operation, making workers prone to long-term health risks and workplace injury. If a load is unbalanced or too heavy, forklifts can topple over.
Impaired visibility on ride-on machinery can result in workers getting caught between walls or driving off of loading docks. Raised conveyor belts force employees to strain themselves reaching for objects and risking entrapment of clothing or limbs in machinery. Overhead movers minimize all these risks.
American Crane & Equipment Corporation (ACECO) is equipped with the resources to fit both standard and custom crane solutions. With over 40 years of experience, our team thrives on a problem solving culture.