Australia is a county that is experiencing great growth and development, thanks largely to our healthy economy and a growing population that needs places to work, live and grow. As a result of this development there are a huge number of building sites and workplaces where property development companies and builders are erecting apartment towers, commercial buildings and retail sites. A common element of the building site in today’s world is the crane, and a great way to tell a prosperous city is to take look at the horizon to see how many cranes are scattered about. Cranes equal development, which is a good indicator of prosperity, and in the past two decades or so the use of cranes has really jumped in the building world as they become more accessible and readily available. Crane safety is a really big part of any building site, truly it is a vital component of having a safe workplace. While cranes can only be operated by highly trained and skilled operators, we should all understand what makes for safe operation, and what’s involved After all, cranes are large and transport huge loads, so if something does go wrong, the chances of it having a catastrophic effect are pretty high. We’re going to take a look at why crane safety is so important, and how you can protect yourself and keep a safe workplace.
What can go wrong?
When using cranes and slings there are a few main things that can go wrong:
- The crane operator drops the load
- The crane hits someone or something with the load or the equipment
- The crane can drop objects from a height
When operating a crane you want to avoid damaging people or property, as this can be costly both in terms of equipment repair and also in productivity and safety. Thus, everyone on the building site needs to be aware of safety when operating cranes. Hazards become more prevalent any time someone acts unsafely or is unaware of the potential risks, so training is a huge part of safe crane operation.
How can we prevent something from going wrong?
When using a crane and sling, the best way to avoid a hazard is to stay alert and to be aware of your surroundings. Anyone who is working in the vicinity of a crane needs to be aware of its movements. It’s a sad fact of the building industry that people sometimes have to work long and late hours, and sometimes people are pushed to complete a job in a specific time frame. When this happens, people can get tired, and tiredness can lead to mistakes and a lowered awareness of surroundings. It’s not only an important part of crane safety but overall workplace and Operational Health and Safety (OH&S) that people are given sufficient rest time between shifts, and break time when on shift. Another key part of crane safety is the crane and the maximum load that it can carry. Occupational Health and Safety prohibits overloading of cranes and this sort of information is practiced amongst crane operators. Some of the key issues when planning for crane operation include:
- Identifying the scope of the work and ensuring that the ground conditions and the supporting structures can support the weight of the crane and loads while performing the planned lifts
- Ensuring the crane operator holds the required license for the work
- Taking the weather conditions into account and planning for them
- Figuring out the best place for the crane to be positioned
- Ensuring that there is sufficient room for the lifts that are planned, and that lifts won’t be performed near overhead electric lines (or that control measures are taken)
Protecting against hazards
When operating a crane, there are certain things that will be put in place as part of the OH&S requirements. These are:
- Ladders and stairways with non-slip surfaces to walk from the ground to a platform or cab
- Crane footwalks / walkways have sufficient headroom for walking
- Electrical equipment is located a safe distance from live parts and is protected from contaminants
In addition to this there are a wide range of potential risks that you will need to be trained on and aware of as part of being on a building site, or in an area where there is a crane being used.
In conclusion, crane operation and safe materials handling is a huge part of the construction industry, and cranes will continue to play an integral role in the development of buildings and growth in Australia. You must always follow the OH&S requirements for safe operation, and work to ensure that your vigilance leads to a safe worksite. You can never be too careful, and you should always be thorough and take your responsibility to yourself and your workmates seriously.