Manufacturing News

Using cranes and hoists safely

MANY materials handling accidents in the workplace can be attributed to the inappropriate use of cranes and hoists. But these accidents can often be prevented.

By simply implementing some key measures when it comes to the design and use of cranes and hoists, managers and owners can help to avert materials handling accidents in the workplace.

Most accidents occur because of incorrectly devised and installed cranes which, when combined with poorly trained operators, is a recipe for disaster.

There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to crane and hoist safety. These include ensuring that the cranes and hoists are:

Correctly designed, manufactured and installed;

Safely operated by properly trained and safety conscious employees; and

Maintained regularly.

The design of the crane is critical to ensuring safety. The crane should be manufactured in accordance with Australian Standards and consideration should be given as to where and how it will be used.

In particular, consider:

The type of load the crane will be lifting. For instance, does the operator need a tow speed or variable speed hoist to safely lift and move the load or, does the hoist need to be de-rated as a result of the type of load being carried.

How frequently the crane will be operated. Commonly referred to as the duty cycle, this is important in ensuring that the crane does not malfunction due to excessive loading. For example, a crane and hoist that is in constant use for long hours requires equipment that is designed to handle the workload, rather than equipment that is designed for intermittent use.

The environment in which the crane and hoist will be operating. Different environments can have a significant impact on the operation of the crane, with some environments requiring specialised equipment (for example, cranes in explosive atmospheres).

Where the load will be collected, its path of movement and final location. A crane should be designed so that: there is no side loading, the area in which it moves is free from obstruction, and it does not lift the load over people.

Once designed, the crane requires correct installation and commissioning. Ensure that the structure to which the crane is attached can support the forces exerted through its use. Otherwise, the load and crane can collapse causing damage to the building, load and possible injury to staff.

Another critical factor to consider is training. Staff need to be trained on how to use cranes and hoists properly and safely. This not only creates a safer work environment but also improves efficiency, reduces wear and tear on the equipment and therefore, ongoing maintenance costs.

Some important safety steps to follow when using the equipment are:

Pre-operation checks – ensure that the crane and isolation switches have not been tagged, there are no obstructions to the crane movement, the load is below the rated capacity, the travel area is free of other staff, the chain is not damaged and that it has been lubricated sufficiently.

Crane operation (including control of the movement of the crane) – make sure loads are lifted vertically, there is no side loading, the load is free to be lifted, the load is rigged safely, the load is lifted smoothly (no inching), and that there is an emergency stop.

Crane put-away – ensure that there is a designated position for the crane when not in use, and lock off the power, if necessary.

When choosing a crane or hoist select one that can be easily maintained. Some questions to contemplate include:

Spare parts – are they carried for all models? As hoists can operate for a number of years, check if the spare parts are carried for superseded models.

What is the cost of spare parts? The easiest way to do this is to compare a basket of commonly replaced parts between suppliers.

Who can service the hoist or are special tools required? A hoist requiring special equipment or computer programs for servicing has the potential to increase cost and reduce the number of service providers.

How easy is the hoist to service?

Always ensure that records are maintained about the crane’s details, any repairs made and ongoing maintenance.

* Stephen Batten is managing director of Redfern Flinn 03 9467 5466, www.redfernflinncranes.com.au.

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