Many crane types are used in the manufacturing industry. Truck mounted cranes, tower cranes, overhead cranes, gantry cranes, wall cranes, and electric hoists are critical devices in moving heavy and oversized materials. Fortunately, accidents involving cranes, especially severe ones, are not typical. However, when crane accidents do occur, they tend to be severe. Operator training, proper inspections, maintenance, and safe operations are key to preventing accidents involving cranes.
Before training begins, select the best person for the job. In the case of operating a crane, select highly experienced employees who have been around for a while and understand the hazards of the job and workplace. In fact, OSHA states that only designated employees should be permitted to operate a crane. OSHA defines “designated” in 1910.179(a)(35) as “selected or assigned by the employer or the employer's representative as being qualified to perform specific duties.”
Before you can designate someone as qualified to perform the job of operating a crane, they must be trained. The best source of training information is the crane manufacturer’s owner’s manual. If training cannot be conducted at the place of employment, consider sending the employee to a manufacturer approved course.
OSHA states that there are two types of crane inspections:

  1. Frequent inspections – Daily to monthly intervals (See OSHA Standard 1910.179(j)(2) and the manufacturer’s owner’s manual for items to be inspected.)
  2. Periodic inspections – One- to 12-month intervals (See OSHA Standard 1910.179(j)(3) and the manufacturer’s owner’s manual for items to be inspected.)

In addition to inspecting the crane, all lifting devices, attachments, and slings should be inspected and load tested. Part of this inspection should be to ensure that tags with weight load ratings are attached.   
In addition to frequent and periodic inspections you are also required to have a preventive maintenance program for cranes based on manufacturer recommendations (see OSHA Standard 1910.179[l]). Remember to document and maintain records of all inspections and maintenance.  
Operations Safety

  • Never overload the crane.
  • Best practice is to ensure that any hooks used for lifting be equipped with a throat gate. The throat gate prevents the load (slings, attachments, etc.) from coming off the hook.
  • Start the lift slowly and smoothly to minimize swinging of the load.
  • Ensure that the rigging is holding the load and there is no slipping.
  • Raise the load high enough to clear obstacles. Once the load is raised, you can move it to the desired location and slowly lower it to the set-down point.
  • Keep hands away from pinch points. Stop when the load block is low enough to unhook the sling.
  • If the load needs to be turned, tag lines should be used so that the load can be turned without standing under or close to it.
  • If you have an emergency, shut off the main disconnect switch or press the stop button on the control pendant.
  • Never “fly” a load over coworkers or permit anyone to walk under the load.
  • Return the load block to its designated location after use.
  • Do not leave the load block low enough for someone to run into.
  • Never leave a suspended load unattended.
  • Do not leave unused slings attached to a crane hook where they can become snagged on passing equipment.
  • If it has a designated storage area, move the crane to that location.
  • Pay attention! Do not allow yourself to become distracted.

OSHA Standard 1910.179 Overhead and Gantry Cranes
American National Standard Safety Code for Overhead and Gantry Cranes, ANSI B30.2.0-196
Crane Manufacturers Association of America, Inc., Specification No. 61
For an article on cranes in the construction industry, please see: Crane Safety