Thanks to mechanization, construction and heavy industries have enjoyed exponential efficiency in operation as compared to exclusively employing human labor. Among the machines greatly credited for this is the mobile crane. As with any heavy mechanical utility, care and caution must be taken when using them to avoid harm to workers the implement itself, and the surroundings in and beyond the work area.
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What Are Mobile Cranes?
A mobile crane is a cable controlled or hydraulic powered crane mounted on rubber-tired truck carriers or other self-propelled vehicular bases. The crane itself consists of the base, (where it is attached to the vehicle) and an often telescopic, extendable arm with load attaching apparatus at its end. They are largely popular due to their:
- High mobility
- Versatility of use
- High load capacity handling
- Fast deployment speed
Mobile cranes can have their working radii extended by deploying hydraulic stabilizers that extend from the side of the crane’s mobile base. They are operated from a booth/cab which turns with the crane’s boom, with some remote-controlled exceptions. Total Equipment Training offers many resources such a free practice test for mobile cranes and free crane inspection checklists.
What Do You Need to Be a Crane Operator
If you or your personnel is interested in becoming a mobile crane operator, here are the essential steps to become mobile crane operator certified:
- Be 18 years old and above.
- Earn a GED. While this isn’t a critical requirement by the NCCCO (the accredited, regulating body for crane operators) it is highly advised to earn a high school diploma. It greatly improves your standing when under evaluation for hiring among employers and joining higher institutions of education.
- Get credible training. This can be through an institute or personally sought out. In either case, make sure the training theory material is from a reputable and professional organization such as Total Equipment Training, which will help achieve qualitative results.
- Comply with NCCCO’s Substance Abuse Policy.
- Pass both written and practical examinations as set by the NCCCO.
- Comply with the NCCCO’s Code of Ethics.
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Essential Mobile Crane Safety Setup
It is essential for the mobile crane operator to have a deep understanding of the crane they intend to operate. Cranes are complex machines, with several moving parts and components that transfer weight and stress as they move. Understanding how these parts relate to each other is crucial in operating the crane safely and efficiently. Manufacturer manuals come with diagrams and explanations showing all parts of the machine, and should be thoroughly read through on a frequent basis, and kept close at hand for reference. Areas to pay attention to include the crane’s stabilizers, the load-bearing, and lifting components, and the controls used to get a job done.
Total Equipment Training offers online OSHA certified resources for your mobile crane safety training. We also have experienced in-person mobile crane training that will come to your location to train at your work site.
How to Set up a Mobile Crane
There are many exciting opportunities for mobile crane operators; cranes have revolutionized the construction and heavy equipment industries and have become one of the most fundamental tools. As a result, they have diversified in form and function, creating employment opportunities, and improving efficiency and safety in a variety of work sites.
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The safe operation of any heavy utility in a work site is an essential component in preventing harm to people and surrounding structures, making safety protocols a must-have before carrying out any operation. Mobile crane operators are required to know all these safety protocols, that not only apply during the operation of the crane but also steps taken before and after, to ensure safe operation.
FREE daily checklist for mobile crane inspections.
What Are the Safety Hazards for Mobile Cranes?
There are many causes of crane accidents. The most prominent hazards for mobile cranes include:
- Falling of the load. Detachment of the load from the hoisting apparatus can cause harm and/or damage to people and structures.
- The hoisted load hitting or being swung into nearby structures and bystanders.
- Electrocution. This is when a part of the crane or the load being moved comes into contact with a live electrical current. (From overhanging cables or exposed underground wiring)
- Toppling of the crane. As the boom extends up and out, the crane’s center of balance is shifted, making it less stable. This may cause a loss of balance and subsequent fall.
- Unstable ground. Soft earth, loose gravel and soil, and inclines pose operational threats to the mobile crane by making it slip or buckle.
- Poor/Unfavorable weather. Strong winds may topple an extended crane and wet weather makes for unsure footing.
Call Total Equipment Training to schedule your OSHA-certified safety training: (610) 321-2679
Avoiding Mobile Crane Hazards
Despite all these hazards, there are measures that can be taken to improve safety and prevent injury and damage to both personnel and structures.
- Always inspect the area of deployment before beginning mobile crane operation. The ground should be stable, free from risk of slipping, and large enough to comfortably fit the crane.
- Avoid operating the mobile crane in harsh weather conditions.
- Operate the mobile crane according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Do not exceed weight limits or any other operational restrictions.
- Always have a qualified crane inspector check the mobile crane for wear and proper function before operation.
- Do not operate the crane near power lines or any overhead cables. If it is essential, make sure the cables are not live.
One of the most important aspects of controlling mobile crane hazards is to use a qualified signal person. TET provides resources to help get your Signal Person NCCCO certified.
Preventing Common Mobile Crane Mistakes
Create a Daily Checklist
Avoid common mobile crane mistakes by coming up with a plan before ever starting the engine. Draw a plan that overviews your intended activities for the day. Creating a plan makes it less likely for injury and to visualize your processes.
For example, it would be very time-consuming to move loads in the morning onto an intended path for trucks and have to remove said loads again, simply because of a lack of proper planning.
A setup plan also entails doing an assessment of the mobile crane’s placement position, accounting for hazards like air pockets underneath the surface, powered overhead lines, proximity to building structures, and the nature of the surface (loose gravel, concrete, etc.) the mobile crane is to be deployed on. The weather analysis is also included as part of the plan, as it can prepare the crane operator to accommodate for changing environmental conditions.
Print a free mobile crane checklist
Secure the Heavy Equipment Site
Making sure the site is secure involves taking measures to eliminate or minimize any potential harm that could come to the crane, its operator, any site workers, structures in close proximity, and the ground on which the crane is set up. Some of these mobile crane security procedures may require the input of external personnel, (such as geotechnical engineers to assess the ground composition and necessary stability) so the crane operator and/or their employer may need to work together with others to secure the site. If need be, sections can be cordoned off to prevent movement through the crane’s operation area.
Take our free NCCCO mobile crane test to see if you are ready for certification.
Conduct a Mobile Crane Inspection
This essential step should never be skipped, as it serves as the crane operator’s best baseline for determining the current state of the mobile crane. Crane inspections are a full spectrum analysis platform the crane operator uses to individually check for damage and wear of the crane’s components. Thanks to their training, certified crane operators have earned themselves the skills they need to carry out thorough checks on the mobile crane, making certification an important factor to consider when hiring or advancing one’s skill.
Total Equipment Training offers online OSHA heavy equipment training. Sign up for online training courses and download study guides to prepare for your crane operator certification.
Test Everything Before Starting a Mobile Crane
Before deploying the mobile crane, carry out a full range test of its parts, without any loads attached. A full test is different from a mobile crane inspection in that the mobile crane is switched on, and its components are free to move. This adds a new perspective to problem identification, as the mobile crane operator can visually notice abnormal movements and hear any inappropriate sounds or noises.
Once all these steps have been taken, it is now much safer to deploy the crane and begin site operations. A last bit of advice, which is often overlooked, would be to use common sense. If something about the crane feels or looks off, it is better to be safe and stop all operations, until the crane can be confidently operated.
Mobile Crane Safety Tips
- Make sure the load has been rigged correctly. This will prevent any part of the load from being dislodged and causing damage or injury. It is preferred to have a professional rigger on site, making sure the load is safe and secure before being moved.
- The crane operator must understand the crane load radius. Over-extending the boom at certain loads poses a tipping hazard to the crane.
- Always be observant of activities around the crane operation area, especially if there are other people or vehicles moving in and around it.
- Make sure communication is clear and unobstructed. The crane operator should constantly have a clear view of the signal person, and any auxiliary modes of communication such as radio should be free of interference.
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Mobile Crane Stability
One of the advantages of mobile cranes, their mobility, can also turn into a vulnerability. They can topple in strong wind and slide on unstable/wet ground much more easily once the boom is extended. That is why the vehicular base of most mobile cranes comes with outriggers/stabilizers to better plant the crane during operation. It is important to take into account:
- The maximum force the stabilizers can handle
- The condition of the ground before deploying stabilizers
- The condition and position of the stabilizer pads
Begin crane operation only when the conditions are safe to do so, preferably after inspection by a competent and qualified person’s inspection. Total Equipment Training offers you and your staff the ability to learn more with mobile crane operator study resources.
Hand Signals for Mobile Crane Operation
These are some common mobile crane hand signals validated by OSHA:
- Stop Signals – Signals to stop or slow down to a stop of operations. Stop, Emergency Stop and Dog Everything.
- Boom and Load Signals – Raising or lowering the boom. Raise Boom, Lower Boom, Swing Boom, Hoist Load, Lower Load, Telescope Out and In.
- Travel Signals – Signals to move the crane. Travel (specific for mobile cranes). Point fingers upward with hand extended in front of the torso. Push it in and out in the direction of travel.
Refer to these NCCCO approved study guides and materials for a deeper look and wider reference to hand signals and other crane operator communication channels. Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of a signal person.
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Trust TET For Mobile Crane Safety Training
Total Equipment Training is a nationally recognized, OSHA-compliant safety and training organization equipped with essential skills and experienced staff. Safety and efficiency improves when you leverage these with qualitative approaches in the heavy and construction industries. Reach out to TET today and begin your journey, for you, and your team.