When it comes to safely operating a truck-mounted material-handling aerial work platform or crane, the importance of being knowledgeable about the equipment and properly planning a job cannot be understated. Simple mobile crane safety best practices can go a long way toward avoiding accidents that result from a deficiency in one of the above areas.

For purposes of this article, we will assume that the machine is properly maintained, serviced and inspected per the manufacturer, OSHA and all applicable industry guidelines.

Mobile crane safety starts with knowing your job

The first step in mobile crane safety, and before operating any piece of lifting equipment, is making sure operators are properly trained and knowledgeable about the equipment. To that end, before you operate any lifting device, you must be properly trained and certified (if applicable) to use the machine you will be working with. Today, there are many companies that provide mobile crane operator training and certification. Aerial work platform and crane work, if not properly performed with the proper planning, procedures and personnel can be hazardous.

Do not attempt to perform any operation with an aerial work platform or crane without proper training.

Know your machine

All machines are different. Make sure you have complete knowledge of the one you will be using. Be familiar with the controls, capacity and range charts as well as the machine limitations before you attempt to do any work. Thoroughly review, understand and adhere to the manufacturer’s operating instructions provided in the manuals and placards. There is no substitute for knowing how your machine works, and using it in the manner by which the manufacturer designed it.

Plan your work

You should also have a plan as to how you will accomplish your work. Make sure you have a lift plan as well as a safety plan in place every time you deploy your mobile crane. Ensure that the intended operation is achievable with your equipment. Note obstacles with which you may have to contend. Hazards like energized power lines, road traffic, ground conditions and slopes, among others, are all important to consider when planning a successful lift. Determine whether you are properly staffed for the job, who will be at the site and what each team member’s role will be. Make sure you have your site adequately demarcated to ensure it is clear of traffic, bystanders and passersby. Remember to pay attention to the weather. Different machines are rated differently for various wind conditions. Rain, snow, heat and cold can also impact conditions and machine performance. These must be accounted for to ensure safe operation.

Perform a walk-around mobile crane safety inspection

Once you know how to use your machine and have a plan developed, a thorough walk-around inspection of your machine is essential to ensure the machine is in proper condition before you begin. Follow the manufacturer’s and all applicable industry inspection standards. Make sure all components on the machine are in proper working order. This includes hydraulics, electric components and connections, and structural items. If they are not, then they must be fixed before attempting the operation.

Get your footing

Proper outrigger deployment is critical to the safety of any job. Make sure your outriggers are out the proper distance from the truck and make sure you have adequate ground penetration. Double check the work surface for hazards including underground voids, slopes and soft or loose soil. Use adequate cribbing and outrigger pads to ensure steady and level footing for your machine.

Make sure all systems are ‘go’

Today’s equipment can have a variety of safety devices and operator aids. If a safety device is not in proper working order, the machine must be taken out of service and operations must not begin until the device is again working properly. If an operator aid is not in proper working order the manufacturer’s or a qualified person’s recommendation for continued operation or shutdown shall be followed.

Do the work before the work

Setting up for the rest of your operation may include deploying a jib, attaching a work platform, reeving a load line and hook block, and any number of other tasks, depending on the machine and how you plan to use it. Ensure you properly secure any attachments or auxiliary devices per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Do the lift before the lift

Mobile crane safety best practices mandate that all people involved in the planned work follow all rules set forth by OSHA and all applicable industry standards. When lifting personnel with a certified ASME B30.5 Mobile and Locomotive Crane, a trial lift and proof test are required as set forth by OSHA 1926.1431.

Mobile crane safety requires physical and mental fitness

Crane and aerial work can be challenging—physically and mentally. Being physically fit, stretched and flexible and mentally alert will make your work go smoother. Proper diet, sleep and exercise will all contribute to your safety on the job. Be sure you are trained on other aspects of this work including lifting techniques.

Dress for success

Make sure you have and are utilizing all required safety equipment. Proper protection from head to toe is essential for mobile crane safety. Make sure you are using up-to-date and properly-functioning safety equipment. A broken hard hat, torn safety lanyard or other non-compliant devices do not constitute adequate protection.

A team is a powerful thing

Like a pit stop in a NASCAR race, teamwork and communication can be the difference in crossing the finish line. Know your crew, know your hand signals and know how to communicate properly within your team. If the team pays attention, communicates and works together, the results of the work will reflect that commitment.

Whether you are lifting people or materials, proper training, planning, preparation and execution will increase mobile crane safety, making your work more efficient and more enjoyable.

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