5 Important Overhead Crane Safety Protocols That Can Save Lives

If you've invested thousands of dollars into a heavy-duty overhead crane for your facility, you already know that this equipment creates a lot of hazards to both your employees and property. However, there are so many different techniques for minimizing risk that it's easy to overlook some of the most important safety protocols. Make sure to work all five of these routines into your company's daily operations to reduce accidents and prevent damage to your products or other equipment.

Daily Inspections

Monthly and quarterly inspections are great, but they can't replace a quick overview every morning to catch twisted supports and cracked chains. Train all your operators to handle daily tasks like:

  • Clearing employees out of the area before the inspection and daily operation begins
  • Checking for obvious and visible signs of damage anywhere on the overhead crane
  • Testing the buttons and direction levers for sticking or hesitation
  • Measuring the wear on the load hooks, cables, and bottom block
  • Verifying the location of fire extinguishers and other important pieces of safety equipment

Lockout Checks

The lockout system is used to disconnect electrical power to the overhead crane so inspectors and maintenance workers can safely touch the equipment without injuring themselves. It also prevents the crane from moving unexpectedly in the middle of work. However, the switches used for locking out become worn over time and may end up broken where the switch handle no longer disconnects the power inside the unit. Set up a protocol for double-checking the power is actually disconnected from the equipment, such as attempting to start up the crane after hitting the disconnect switch.

Hand Gesture Refreshers

Handheld radio units help your team communicate while moving a large and dangerous load, but overhead cranes often make so much noise that it's impossible to hear what's being said over the walkie-talkie. Hold monthly meetings to refresh everyone that works on or around the crane with the common hand signals used for communicating in noisy environments. Stick with the standard gestures used by all crane operators to make sure new team members already know the basics instead of having to learn a completely different set of signals. If an employee can't properly demonstrate all the gestures yet, don't let them work around the crane.

Posted Load Limits

Overloading an overhead crane is extremely dangerous, even when you're only adding an extra hundred pounds or so. Crane equipment needs to have clear and easy to read load limits posted on the sides of the lifting platform itself, in the operation booths, and in the loading zone. Refresh these markings regularly so they remain legible as wear and tear chips away at the paint or fades the signs. Include a warning that loads should never exceed 80% of the posted load limit, even for testing, to prevent collapses that threaten employees and leave you with expensive crane repair bills.

Slow Direction Changes

Quick stops and fast direction changes cause the load to swing, putting too much force on the cables and chains holding up the crane. Some operators try to manually brake their loads by tapping the reverse button lightly, but this heats up the equipment and increases wear in a dangerous way. Train employees to plan their movements before lifting a load and to let the built-in acceleration controls handle the slow down process instead to minimize unnecessary wear and prevent motor failure due to overheating.

Overhead cranes handle the lifting and moving jobs no other equipment can manage, but you still need to make them a safe part of the workplace. Make these protocols a mandatory part of your daily operation to keep all your employees on the same page when it comes to operating and inspecting the crane equipment. For answers to more questions about crane equipment, check out companies like Wazee Crane.