Materials in Motion

Ask Spanco: Conducting A Job Hazard Analysis for Overhead Cranes in Industrial Environments

Question: I am a college student and tasked with writing an activity hazard analysis (AHA/JHA) on the subject of my choice. I chose a lift project using an overhead bridge crane. I want to write my own AHA but would like to see some examples to gain insight on the depth of step-by-step procedures. I work at a facility where overhead cranes are used every day. If you could give me some references to research, I would greatly appreciate it.

What Is A Job Hazard Analysis?

Many companies conduct a job hazard analysis to determine and establish proper work policies and procedures. The analysis is a technique that helps employers and workers focus on individual job tasks and identify hazards before they occur. The expectation of the job hazard analysis is to focus on the correlation between the worker and the job.

The job itself consists of multiple factors that must be analyzed in order to conduct a thorough job hazard analysis. These factors include things like the tools used to complete the job, the work environment in which the job takes place, and the actual task(s) to be completed by each individual involved. Knowing all the aspects of each job will allow you to conduct thorough job hazard analyses and ultimately keep your workers safe each day.

A JHA is only one component of a proper safety and health management system, which is essential to the health and wellbeing of workers completing their daily tasks and the employees who have to work around them.

In order to complete an effective job hazard analysis, you must first understand what constitutes a hazard. A hazard is anything that presents the potential for harm. According to OSHA, workplace hazards are defined as a condition or activity that can result in an injury or illness if left uncontrolled. Eliminating or controlling potential hazards is the ultimate goal when conducting a job hazard analysis.

What’s the Purpose of A Job Hazard Analysis?

There are many steps employers can take to ensure the safety of their employees, but conducting a thorough and accurate job hazard analysis is one of the first steps to preventing workplace injuries. In other words, you can prevent on-the-job injuries and fatalities just by knowing your workplace operations, establishing proper policies and procedures, and ensuring appropriate training for all employees in the workplace.

The purpose of a JHA is to document any potential job hazards in order to help eliminate and prevent hazardous conditions. If a thorough job hazard analysis is conducted and employees are properly trained to know which hazards to look for and how to control them, it will likely result in safer, more effective work methods. Effective work methods will help prevent and control worker injuries, reduce workers’ compensation costs, and increase worker productivity. Job hazard analyses also play a valuable role in training new employees to perform their jobs safely and effectively. After a job hazard analysis is completed, management must demonstrate its commitment to safety and health by quickly correcting any uncontrolled hazards identified.

Which Jobs Are Appropriate for A Job Hazard Analysis?

As we mentioned above, a job hazard analysis can apply to a multitude of jobs and activities. In fact, they should be applied to any activity that could potentially threaten the lives or safety of the people involved. For instance, employees who manage a public pool must conduct an activity hazard analysis to determine potential hazards for guests who are using their facility. Once the analysis is completed, management can formulate a set of policies and procedures for both employees and the guests who are swimming on the premises.

A job hazard analysis is not limited to one type of industry or company. Rather, it applies to any workplace where potentially hazardous jobs occur. According to OSHA’s hazard prevention training program, priority should go to the following types of jobs:

  • Jobs with the highest injury or illness rates;
  • Jobs with the potential to cause severe or disabling injuries or illness, even if there is no history of previous accidents;
  • Jobs in which one simple human error could lead to a severe accident or injury;
  • Jobs that are new to your operation or have undergone changes in processes and procedures; and
  • Jobs complex enough to require written instructions.

Working with or around overhead cranes meets many of the above criteria. For overhead crane operators and other employees working near moving cranes, there are a plethora of potential hazards that could result in death or serious injury if not controlled.

What About Overhead Crane Hazard Analyses?

So, how can we identify overhead crane hazards as part of a job hazard analysis and document them effectively? Oftentimes, employees and managers have to ask themselves several important questions before they can begin documenting potential hazards and solutions. OSHA outlines several courses of examination as a starting point for employers who need to conduct a JHA. To conduct a thorough and accurate job hazard analysis for overhead crane operators, the goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What can go wrong?
  • What are the consequences?
  • How could it arise?
  • What are other contributing factors?
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?

Once you’ve established a course of examination, it’s important to document the answers to these questions thoroughly and consistently.

OSHA provides a list of thorough hazard scenarios, outlined below:

  • Where it is happening (environment),
  • Who or what it is happening to (exposure),
  • What precipitates the hazard (trigger),
  • The outcome that would occur should it happen (consequence), and
  • Any other contributing factors.

How to Identify Crane Hazards

To identify potential hazards in a workplace where overhead cranes are used often, we must look at multiple contributing factors that create potential hazards. In fact, according to OSHA, one singular cause rarely results in one singular effect. That means we have to analyze each aspect of the job and how it could lead to a potential injury or fatality.

An example of a common safety hazard for overhead cranes and operators:

  • Environment: A factory that manufactures equipment and services for global energy applications.
  • Trigger: A worker is using a ceiling-mounted workstation bridge crane to lift parts and heavy materials from a machining center.
  • Exposure: The operator mistakenly believes he or she can rely on his or her instincts to determine whether the load is too heavy.
  • Consequences: The crane becomes overloaded, which adds structural stress to the system and causes irreversible damage. The load swings and suddenly drops, landing on the signal person and crushing both of his legs.

BEFORE performing a job hazard analysis, it’s important to take the following questions into considerations:

  • What can go wrong? The operator could overload the bridge crane, causing stress on the crane’s structure and causing irreversible damage to the system. The load could swing from side-to-side, before suddenly dropping onto the floor below.
  • What are the consequences? The falling load could crush nearby employees.
  • How could it happen? The accident could happen as a result of the worker relying on his or her experience and instinct to determine whether a load is too heavy to lift. Obviously, this hazard scenario could not occur if the operator knew (and adhered to) the weight of the load and the capacity of the crane. Using technologies such as load-measuring systems for training and planning can greatly reduce the hazard of overloading and operator incompetency.
  • What are other contributing factors? This hazard occurs very quickly. It does not give the worker much opportunity to recover or prevent it once the crane is overloaded and the load begins to swing from side to side. It’s crucial to know other contributing factors—like how quickly the accident could occur—because it helps you to determine the severity and likelihood of an accident when selecting appropriate hazard controls. Unfortunately, experience has shown that training is not very effective in hazard control when events happen quickly because human reaction times are often much slower than the trigger.
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur? This determination requires some judgment. If there have been “near-misses” or actual cases, then the likelihood of a recurrence would be considered high. It’s also important to take the crane operator into consideration. If he or she was never properly trained, but has years of experience, the likelihood that the hazard will occur is high. Operators with multiple years of experience are more likely to rely on their experience than to recall training methods that may entail safe practices and hazard preventions. By following the steps in this example, you can organize your hazard analysis activities.

Job hazard analysis is an essential part of crane and hoist operations. Conducting a thorough and accurate JHA will provide the appropriate information needed to identify potential hazards and determine preventative measures to overcome those hazards.

What Steps Should You Take to Identify Hazards And Prevent Them From Occurring?

Selecting the job to be analyzed, breaking it down into a specific sequence of steps, identifying potential hazards, and determining preventative measures to overcome those hazards will help you to document your job hazard analysis for each specific job in your facility. This written document reminds the operator of hazards associated with equipment use and also serves as a teaching tool during job training.

Here’s an example of the steps taken to complete a job hazard analysis:

  • Selecting the job to be analyzed: A crane is moving materials nearby or under energized power lines
  • Breaking the job down into a sequence of steps: The crane operator relies on a signaler or worker on the ground to direct the load nearby or under power lines; the operator controls the load directionally based on the hand signals provided by the worker below. The operator controls the load, moving the materials near or below the power lines.
  • Identifying potential hazards: The worker uses an unidentifiable signal or the operator isn’t paying attention to the workers hand signals at all; the operator isn’t trained to follow safety procedures when working near or around energized power lines; the signaler isn’t paying attention to the movement of the crane or the direction of the load.
  • Determining preventive measures to overcome these hazards: Operators and workers must receive the appropriate training to avoid danger zones where electrocution can occur. Operators should have workers observing nearby to assist them whenever it is difficult to visually maintain the necessary clearance. Be sure that any ladders, tools, and systems are non-conductive, and ask the electric company to de-energize and ground power lines or install insulation whenever people are working near them.

Workers involved in crane and hoist operations should understand and apply OSHA and ANSI regulations and standards regarding the operation, maintenance, and inspection of overhead cranes before and during each use. These regulations and standards are a good starting point for any job hazard analysis. Even so, OSHA and ANSI standards alone may not provide enough information to complete an accurate and thorough JHA. It’s also important to read and understand the crane manufacturer’s literature and instructions before individual tasks can be identified and preventative measures put into place.

Check out our previous blog about crane safety and risks for more information about major overhead crane hazards and preventative measures here.