Lifting Operations by Crane

The construction and manufacturing industries rely on moving large, heavy loads by "lifting" as part of their daily operations. Advancements in this "lifting" technology have been developed for these operations, including extensive, careful training and workplace precautions. There are significant safety issues to be considered for the operators of the diverse "lifting" devices and for workers in proximity to them. Crane, derrick, and hoist safety hazards are addressed in specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for general industry, maritime, gear certification, and construction. The focus of this article is to provide some general information on lifting operations using a crane under the "general industry" scenario. Also included are some factors to consider when developing a lift operations plan, and some general information on a recent OSHA update on the crane operator standard.

General Industry Scenario

OSHA regulations for cranes under the general industry scenario are summarized in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910 Subpart N, or more specifically 29 CFR 1910.179 "Overhead and Gantry Cranes." As defined by OSHA under 29 CFR 1910.179(a)(1), "a crane is a machine for lifting and lowering a load and moving it horizontally, with the hoisting mechanism an integral part of the machine. Cranes whether fixed or mobile are driven manually or by power." Various types of cranes are defined by OSHA in 29 CFR 1910.179(a)(2) through (14).

Some of the key select requirements (not all inclusive) for crane operations are outlined as follows.

  • All new overhead and gantry cranes constructed and installed on or after August 31, 1971, shall meet the design specifications of the American National Standard Safety Code for Overhead and Gantry Cranes, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B30.2.0-1967, per 29 CFR 1910.179(b)(2).
  • The rated load of the crane shall be plainly marked on each side of the crane, and if the crane has more than one hoisting unit, each hoist shall have its rated load marked on it or its load block and this marking shall be clearly legible from the ground or floor, per 29 CFR 1910.179(b)(5).
  • A minimum clearance of three inches overhead and two inches laterally shall be provided and maintained between the crane and obstructions, per 29 CFR 1910.179(b)(6)(i).
  • Where passageways or walkways are provided, obstructions shall not be placed so that safety of personnel will be jeopardized by movements of the crane, per 29 CFR 1910.179(b)(6)(ii).
  • If the runways of two cranes are parallel, and there are no intervening walls or structure, there shall be adequate clearance provided and maintained between the two bridges, per 29 CFR 1910.179(b)(7).
  • Only "designated personnel" shall be permitted to operate a crane covered by 29 CFR 1910.179, per 29 CFR 1910.179(b)(8).
  • Per 1910.179(c)(1)(i), the general arrangement of the cab and the location of control and protective equipment shall be such that all operating handles are within convenient reach of the operator when facing the area to be served by the load hook, or while facing the direction of travel of the cab. The arrangement shall allow the operator a full view of the load hook in all positions.
  • Access to the car and/or bridge walkway of the crane shall be by a conveniently placed fixed ladder, stairs, or platform requiring no step over any gap exceeding 12 inches (30 centimeters). Fixed ladders must comply with subpart D of this part, per 29 CFR 1910.179(c)(2).
  • Each independent hoisting unit of a crane shall be equipped with at least one self-setting brake (referred to as a holding brake) applied directly to the motor shaft or some part of the gear train, per 29 CFR 1910.179(f)(1)(i).
  • Electrical equipment shall be so located or enclosed that live parts will not be exposed to accidental contact under normal operating conditions, per 29 CFR 1910.179(g)(2)(i).
  • Per 29 CFR 1910.179(h)(2)(i), in using hoisting ropes, the crane manufacturer's recommendation shall be followed. The rated load divided by the number of parts of rope shall not exceed 20 percent of the nominal breaking strength of the rope.
  • No less than two wraps of rope shall remain on the drum when the hook is in its extreme low position [per 29 CFR 1910.179(h)(2)(iii)(a)], and rope end shall be anchored by a clamp securely attached to the drum, or by a socket arrangement approved by the crane or rope manufacturer [per 29 CFR 1910.179(h)(2)(iii)(b)].
  • Replacement rope shall be the same size, grade, and construction as the original rope furnished by the crane manufacturer, unless otherwise recommended by a wire rope manufacturer due to actual working condition requirements, per 29 CFR 1910.179(h)(2)(viii).
  • Hooks shall meet the manufacturer's recommendations and shall not be overloaded, per 1910.179(h)(4).
  • Except for floor-operated cranes, a gong or other effective warning signal shall be provided for each crane equipped with a power traveling mechanism, per 20 CFR 1910.179(i).
  • Before initial use, all new and altered cranes shall be inspected to ensure compliance with the provisions of 29 CFR 1910.179.
  • Per 1910.179(j)(1)(ii), the inspection procedure for cranes in regular service is divided into two general classifications based upon the intervals at which inspection should be performed. The intervals in turn are dependent upon the nature of the critical components of the crane and the degree of their exposure to wear, deterioration, or malfunction. The two general classifications are designated as "frequent" and "periodic" with respective intervals between inspections as defined as follows:
    • Frequent inspection - daily to monthly intervals.
    • Periodic inspection - one to 12-month intervals.
  • Per 1910.179(k)(1)(i), before initial use, all new and altered cranes shall be tested to ensure compliance with the section including the following functions:
    • Per 1910.179(k)(1)(ii), the trip setting of hoist limit switches shall be determined by tests with an empty hook traveling in increasing speeds up to the maximum speed. The actuating mechanism of the limit switch shall be located so that it will trip the switch, under all conditions, in sufficient time to prevent contact of the hook or hook block with any part of the trolley.
    • Per 1910.179(k)(2), a rated load test shall be conducted where test loads shall not be more than 125 percent of the rated load unless otherwise recommended by the manufacturer. The test reports shall be placed on file where readily available to appointed personnel.
  • A preventive maintenance program based on the crane manufacturer's recommendations shall be established, per 1910.179(l)(1).

As previously indicated, please refer to 29 CFR 1910.179 "Overhead and Gantry Cranes" for a complete listing of applicable regulations under the "General Industry" scenario.

Planning for a Lift

Industrial Training International (ITI) has identified a basic boilerplate approach to planning a lift. The following eight items are identified by ITI as the points of consideration for the decision-maker when developing a lifting plan. The load is at Point A and needs to be moved to Point B. Several handling systems may be involved in its transition from take-off to placement. These might include cranes, jacks, rollers, hydraulic gantries, a slide system, heavy-haul transporters, strand jacks, or other equipment. At the end of the day, the pull of gravity must be overcome, and movement must be created in a controlled manner.

  1. Weight of load.
  2. Location of the load's center of gravity.
  3. Overall maximum dimensions of the load.
  4. Location and quantity of approved lifting lugs/lifting points.
  5. Selection of the appropriate rigging gear to suit lifting points and center of gravity.
  6. Height restriction.
  7. Risk Assessment.
  8. Method Statement (this includes the process, procedure, engineering data, costing, public and site impact, and preparation requirements).

Overlooking one of these critical elements can result in major setbacks to the planned lift. All of these elements should be discussed with all personnel who will be involved in the planned lifting operation before commencement of the lift. This approach can easily be adopted for nearly any load moving activity.

New Crane Operator Standard

To reduce compliance burdens while maintaining health and safety protections for workers, OSHA established a new crane final rule effective February 7, 2019. Under this new rule, employers are required to train operators as needed to conduct assigned crane activities, evaluate the operators, and document successful completion of the evaluations. The new final rule revises a 2010 requirement that crane operator certification must specify the rated lifting capacity of cranes for which the operator is certified, but did not change the effective date for when operators must be certified. OSHA created the final rule on November 9, 2018 to clarify requirements and ensure the capability of crane operators through training, certification or licensing, and evaluation. The rule maintains the employer's duty to ensure that crane operators can safely operate the equipment and maintain safety and health.

Per OSHA, any person engaged in a construction activity who is operating a crane covered by the new cranes and derricks rule needs to be certified or qualified, except:

  • Sideboom cranes*
  • Derricks*
  • Equipment with a rated hoisting/lifting capacity of 2,000 pounds or less*
*Operators of the listed equipment must meet the criteria for minimum expertise described in the applicable section in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC.

New OSHA requirements for crane and derrick operators include but are not limited to:

  1. Prior training. Employers who have evaluated operators before December 9, 2018, will not have to conduct those evaluations again, but will only have to document when those evaluations were completed.
  2. Minimum requirements for determining operator competency. Operators of cranes and derricks in construction-related activities are subject to the new final rule.
  3. The employer 3-Step process to "qualification." Paragraph (a) in Subpart CC of 29 CFR 1926 clearly defines the employer's responsibility to ensure that their operators are qualified to operate equipment (cranes and derricks) without continuous supervision. This responsibility can be summarized as the employer's duty to train, certify or license, and evaluate operators. According to OSHA, the three-step process to train, certify or license, and evaluate operators is how the regulatory text defines qualification. The revised language in the new final rule clarifies confusion from the previous standard, specifically making clear distinctions between certification and evaluation.
  4. Operator training. The final rule calls for employers to train and evaluate operators when needed as required steps in the process to ensure safe crane operation.
    • The rule also requires crane operators to be certified or licensed, and receive on-going training as necessary to operate new equipment.
    • Operators can be certified based on the crane's type and capacity, or type only, which ensures that more accredited testing organizations are eligible to meet OSHA's certification program requirements.
  5. Employer's duty to evaluate its operators. Operator evaluations (assessments) administered before December 9, 2018, will not be required to undergo a new evaluation of existing knowledge and skill.

Certification has two parts:

  1. A written examination that includes the safe operating procedures for the particular type of equipment the applicant will be operating, and technical understanding of the subject matter criteria required in 29 CFR 1926.1427(j).
  2. A practical exam showing the applicant has the skills needed to safely operate the equipment, including, among other skills, the ability to properly use load chart information and recognize items required in the shift inspection.

There are four ways that an equipment operator can be qualified or certified and meet OSHA requirements.

  1. A certificate from an accredited crane operator testing organization
  2. Qualification from the employer through an audited employer program
  3. Qualification by the U.S. Military (only applies to employees of Department of Defense or Armed Forces and does not include private contractors)
  4. *Licensing by a state or local government (if that licensing meets the minimum requirements set forth by OSHA)
*When a state or local government requires a crane operator license, the crane operator must be licensed accordingly to meet OSHA requirements.

Accredited crane operator testing organization. The testing organization must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency and test according to the criteria listed at 29 CFR 1926.1427(j)(1) and (j)(2). This certification is portable from employer to employer. The testing organization must have its accreditation reviewed every three years. The certificate must note the type and capacity of equipment for which the operator is tested and certified. The certificate is valid for five years.

Audited employer program. An employer may provide a crane operator testing program under the oversight of an independent auditor. An accredited crane operator testing organization must certify the auditor to evaluate the administration of written and practical tests. The auditor must conduct audits of the employer's program according to nationally recognized auditing standards. Crane operator qualification under an employer program is only valid while the operator is an employee of the employer and operating a crane for the employer. The qualification is valid up to five years.

U.S. Military. This qualification applies only to civilian employees of the Department of Defense or Armed Services and is not portable. This qualification does not include employees of private contractors.

Licensing by a government entity. This license is obtained from a government entity, such as a city or state that has a required certification program. When this license meets the minimum requirements of 29 CFR 1926.1427(e)(2) and (j), OSHA requires a crane operator to have this license when operating in the applicable city, county, or state. This license is not portable outside the boundaries of the government entity that issues the license, and is valid for a maximum of five years.

Whenever lifting operations are being performed with a crane, it is greatly encouraged to create a job safety analysis (JSA) that includes the safety measures that need to be considered to avoid injury. A JSA software that can assist in the creation of a job safety analysis, also known as a job hazard analysis (JHA), is JSABuilder. JSABuilder walks users through the creation of a JSA worksheet or activity hazard analysis form to assess the hazards associated with the particular job. When your workforce and team members take ownership of all aspects of safety, then the JSA has done its job. is a fantastic on-line job safety analysis app to assist in preparing your JSA. Set up a free trial account today and follow us on Twitter @JSABuilder, where we Tweet about Health and Safety, provide Safety tips, and updates on current Health and Safety topics.