By Craig Houtamaki
Mobile, tower and overhead cranes are some of the most expensive and important pieces of equipment inside precast plants. Cranes can cause serious damage and injuries if they are not used correctly, and they can be even more dangerous if the machinery itself malfunctions.
This is why crane and rigging inspections are required to ensure equipment is safe to use.
By adhering to OSHA requirements for inspection and training, facilities across the United States have reduced the number of annual fatal injuries involving cranes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Figure 1)
OSHA requires a variety of crane and rigging inspections depending on the circumstance, situation and type of equipment.
All inspections must be carefully documented – with the exception of a shift inspection – and completed by a qualified person. (Figure 2) This is someone who has the knowledge, training and experience to conduct inspections and likely has completed crane operator training and classes for inspections.
Failing any of these inspections can slow production.
So, here is what to expect during the crane and rigging inspection process in order to help avoid unwelcome surprises.
All important equipment pieces for mobile, tower, overhead and mini cranes are required to be regularly inspected. Many companies incorporate a prewritten checklist for frequent inspections to ensure that all of the most important equipment parts are checked. This includes: fluid levels, tire inflation and lifting equipment parts such as the hoist or crane neck.
Any parts that appear damaged and need an adjustment, repair or replacement are noted during inspection. These notes also are used to monitor parts that wear down over time, such as tires, hinges or rust-prone areas.
OSHA requires that a lockout/tagout system is used to display important information on hazardous energy equipment. (Figure 3)
These tags include the date of the last inspection and other important information, such as a part being “in service.”
Some tags are inspected and replaced annually. The inspection card color changes from year to year to make it easy to identify any expired tags.
It is important to ensure all tags are labeled, secured correctly and replaced according to the required schedule.
DAILY EQUIPMENT OPERABILITY DETERMINATION
An initial equipment inspection is required before each shift when a crane is in use. OSHA requires daily inspections to be completed by a competent person, meaning someone familiar with the crane equipment as well as hazards.
First, the area surrounding the crane should be checked to ensure that there are no physical hazards in the proximity. This includes measuring the space from the crane’s path by power lines, structures or other equipment as well as other workers.
Next, the crane’s rated capacity is checked and compared to the load weight. Then the hoist, trolley, bridge, runway and electric systems are inspected and tested for broken parts.
The crane’s powered systems are checked to ensure that the control buttons are operable and functional. The hoist hook buttons, upper limit switch and other important push button controls must be tested. Any structural damage or external issues should be noted. This includes dents, scratches and cracks on the crane itself.
Finally, important safety factors need to be checked. This includes noting any signs of oil spills or leaks and testing the motor brakes. Important indicators and gauges that measure calibration, wind speed and load weights must be functioning properly. There should also be a working fire extinguisher in the operating cabin of the crane.
Wire Rope Inspection
Any wire ropes regularly used on a crane should be inspected daily. If the wire rope has not been used in more than one month, it must undergo an even more thorough inspection before it can be utilized again.
Wire rope can wear down easily if it is used or stored incorrectly. For instance, using too much weight or lifting and stopping loads too quickly can increase the friction and break down the wires.
Inspectors must note any signs of damage. This includes fraying, birdcaging, corrosion, kinks or damaged fittings. Some of these issues can be repaired, but a full replacement may be necessary under some circumstances.
Inspectors also must look to see if the wire rope is seated in the drum grooves correctly so that it moves smoothly and does not twist. If the wire rope is attached to lifting equipment pieces – such as a hook block – the contact point must be carefully inspected for signs of excess wear.
Slings are a crucial piece of overhead lifting equipment as they are used to secure loads to the crane itself. Statistically, most fatal injuries involving cranes occur because of issues with load securement. If the sling breaks or is not connected correctly, the falling load could injure or even kill workers in its path.
Therefore, slings must be inspected every time they are used. This should be done before the rigging crew has secured the load. Any new slings must undergo a proof test and inspection to ensure that it can hold its rated load capacity.
All overhead lifting and rigging hardware must be thoroughly inspected before use. This includes:
- Swivel hoists
- Rigging blocks
- Wire rope clips
Before any of the equipment is used, a qualified person should visually inspect the hardware to look for signs of wear, distortion or damage. This includes looking for any irregularities, rust or misshapen parts. One bent turnbuckle or damaged shackle could cause a major crane accident. This is a crucial aspect of crane and rigging inspections.
Proper crane and rigging inspections can help significantly reduce the number of accidents at precast plants. But these inspections are only effective if they are conducted according to OSHA’s regulations by people who know exactly what hazards to look for.
Craig Houtamaki is the executive vice president at Colorado Crane Operator School.