How to Avoid Overhead Crane Failure

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
  • Collision-avoidance devices/circuitry

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.

To learn more about how to avoid crane failure at your facility, download American Crane’s free eBook, “What Your Cranes Wish You Knew.



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