Overhead Lifting Crane Safety Evolves with New Technology, Heightened Awareness

Safer Handling
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As high labor turnover continues to create an array of stiff challenges, the importance of devoting resources to safety in the field of overhead lifting cranes and hoists has never been more in focus.

“There should be more emphasis than ever on safety, mainly because the experienced people—the people with real know how—are leaving the industry or switching companies, and they’re just not available to pass that knowledge on to new users of equipment,” said Scott Salisbury, general manager of MHI member Bradley Lifting Corporation, an Xtek Company. “A lot of changes and shifts are happening in the industry. For instance, we’re seeing a big influx of technology. As the equipment becomes more technologically advanced, the knowledge base of workers must also increase.”

Fortunately, James Doty Jr., vice president of marketing and sales for MHI member Expert Crane, said, “In recent years, I have seen a marked increase in focus on overhead safety.”

“People are paying a lot more attention to safety,” Doty said. “People are more aware and there’s a general trend to make safety a number one priority.”

Prioritizing maintenance and inspections

MHI’s Overhead Alliance, which includes the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), the Hoist Manufacturers Institute (HMI) and the Monorail Manufacturers Association (MMA), is leading the way in providing safety education and resources. In October 2021, the alliance hosted its fourth annual Overhead Lifting Safety Webinar Series.

Among the speakers was Reginald Jackson, an occupational safety and health specialist with OSHA. Jackson noted in the seminar that the most frequently identified violation from 2016 to 2020 for overhead and gantry cranes was in the category of inadequate inspections by operators, comprising 41% of all violations during that time.

One main point and a common safety concern in overhead lifting is: Operators commonly overlook the importance of routine maintenance. Salisbury said material handling operators sometimes give into the temptation to assume if a piece of equipment is working then there’s no reason to worry about maintenance and inspections. However, ongoing maintenance and inspection of equipment can identify and prevent failures and potential safety issues before they emerge, he said.

“With more focus on inspections and proper care, problems and accidents can be avoided,” Salisbury said. “From the manufacturer’s perspective, we focus on educating the users of equipment on how to properly maintain and care for the equipment. We also educate on the standards that exist, such as those requiring periodic inspection of equipment.”

In addition to the importance of emphasizing maintenance for material handling equipment such as cranes, Doty said routine maintenance of safety equipment used during working at heights is crucial. For example, Doty points to a type of fall arrest lanyard designed for continuous use by workers. The lanyard manufacturer recommends sending the lanyard for inspection every six months for evaluation. That way, the manufacturer who knows the equipment best can determine its condition and swap in a new one if necessary. Other fall arrest systems may have specific guidelines for when they should be discarded and replaced—those guidelines should be carefully met and never pushed past the manufacturer’s recommendation, Doty said.

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For more details on the Overhead Alliance, visit mhi.org/solutions/overhead-alliance.