Any time a crane is used on a jobsite, safety should be the primary focus. “Safety is a major consideration in the design and manufacture of mechanics trucks and truck-mounted cranes, but only the operator can ensure a trouble-free work environment,” says Tim Worman, product manager of commercial vehicles, Iowa Mold Tooling Co. (IMT).
Operator training is a necessity. “The operator should be fully trained and practiced in safe crane operation before attempting to lift a load in a work situation where people could be injured or equipment could be damaged,” says Tom Eggers, director of marketing, Maintainer Corporation of Iowa, Inc.
Don’t leave anything to chance. “Service technicians should read, understand and follow the crane operation manual and all safety requirements before touching the controls,” says Worman. “We also advise technicians to practice operating a new crane in a safe environment prior to lifting the first load. By doing so, operators will know the performance characteristics of the crane before adding the challenges associated with a load.”
It is mandatory to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. “Operators commit an OSHA violation when they do not follow crane manufacturer instructions while performing a lift,” says Worman. “The most common safety violation we see with service cranes is failure to properly deploy stabilizers to maintain unit stability.”
In addition to understanding crane operation, you also need to understand how to properly rig a load. “Rigger training prepares crane operators to properly rig lifts and to keep loads balanced by maintaining the center of gravity at the lift point,” says Worman.
Be sure to keep the crane inspections and appropriate paperwork up to date. “The crane and carrier should have current inspection records and required forms to verify it is in good working order,” says Eggers. “The crane operator should know all applicable federal and local regulations and requirements. Any crane operator needs to be a competent individual as defined by OSHA.”
Positioning and Stability
With any proposed lift, it’s important to know the estimated weight of the object to be lifted, including material-handling devices, and to ensure stability of the vehicle.
When lifting components, don’t forget to take into account the added weight of fluids or accessories. “It is easy for an operator to underestimate the weight of the intended load,” says Tim Davison, product manager of bodies and cranes, Stellar Industries. “Heavy equipment parts books with estimated component weights may be in error because bolt-on accessories or fluid capacities are not included in the books’ estimated weights. As a matter of practice, operators have to become accomplished at understanding how much they are lifting.”
Once a good weight estimate is made, the operator must read the load chart to know how close the crane needs to be to the load to make a safe lift. “This is an acquired skill, and operators should be diligent about understanding load charts and crane placement,” says Davison. “Stability charts must also be consulted to ensure the intended load will not create an unstable condition in a zone the operator intends to use.
“It is important to remember though that the operator has the ultimate responsibility to make sure his vehicle is stable,” he adds. “Ground conditions, angle of the truck, positioning of the stabilizers and other factors all affect stability.”
Start by properly positioning the truck. “The operator should back the truck up to the load, allowing enough room to position the crane and perform the lift,” says Worman.