Even though cranes and lifting equipment are important tools for the construction industry, they can be extremely hazardous and so need to be managed accordingly.
Because cranes and lifting equipment repetitively lift many tonnes of materials ranging from just a few metres up to several hundred metres they can cause destruction and death on site.
The main reason why cranes and other lifting equipment can cause so much damage is because of their sheer size and mass. They weigh tonnes and the loads they carry can add additional tonnes, therefore the consequences of their improper use can be devastating.
One of the most important issues relating to crane or lifting equipment safety is that the correct crane and lifting equipment for the task be used. Another crucial issue is that plant and material be properly maintained and regularly serviced. Also those workers operating cranes and lifting equipment be appropriately skilled, trained and certified to do so safely.
There are different types of cranes each with their own advantages and each presenting their own risks.
1. Tower Cranes
Source : Bill Jacobus
Tower cranes are often used for the construction of high-rise buildings. These cranes are strictly stationary since it has a bolted on base connected to concrete pads.
2. Mobile Cranes
Mobile cranes are mounted onto rubber tires which enable them to be transported throughout various job sites. Some designs have tracks which are similar to those found on tanks. These tracks enable the crane to be mobile. In fact mobile cranes can even move while holding a load, as opposed to other cranes which must remain stationary. Mobile cranes can be transported via helicopters, truck beds or even boats for use at sea so they are convenient for certain situations.
Both tower and mobile cranes are used extensively in the construction industry and there are 2 main hazards presented by cranes, they are:
- Falling of the crane’s load which also presents a significant potential for worker’s deaths and major injury in addition to huge potential for destruction of property and setting back work significantly.
- Collapse of the crane which present significant potential for multiple fatal injuries, both on and off-site. Pedestrians walking by can be injured by the crane collapse which is why it is so dangerous. Crane collapses can impact productivity drastically.
Some of the other common hazards are people in the vicinity being struck by moving loads, cranes making contact with overhead power lines and cranes working in a close proximity colliding with each other.
Each site will present its own hazards relating to crane work and so before crane work even begins a risk assessment should determine these hazards so that safe work strategies can be developed to work safely in the situation.
When a crane is hired the responsibility for planning, supervising and carrying out lifting operations rests with the user, that is the contractor and unless these responsibilities are explicitly assumed by the crane hire company under a ‘contract lift’.Ensuring that crane operators are certified is also vital, numerous accidents have occurred because those allowed to operate the crane were not qualified to do so.