Materials in Motion

Material Handling Safety—Overhead Cranes

Material handling is a function that manufacturers and other industries use to lift and transfer heavy materials without putting unnecessary strain on workers. In that way, it doesn’t only serve as a function in the production process, it also helps to keep workers safe from injuries related to heavy lifting. Even so, if crane operators are not following safety procedures, material handling can become a dangerous function for everyone involved. Here is a list of safety procedures that your operators should keep in mind when lifting heavy materials with an overhead crane:

1.)  Crane operators should do the following before moving a load:

  • Follow a daily safety inspection sheet that includes a checklist for before, during, and after each use.
  • Ensure all loose materials, parts, and packing have been removed from a load before lifting.
  • Make sure that the load is not heavier than the maximum rated load capacity, which should be clearly and visibly marked on the crane.
  • Remove any slack from the sling and hoist before lifting a load.
  • Ensure aisles and space between equipment is wide enough and cleared of debris or unnecessary/dangerous parts.
  • For a bridge crane, position the bridge directly over the load, and then position the trolley over the load before lifting. Make sure the sling is sitting in the center of the hook.
  • Notify co-workers in the exposed area that you will be using the overhead crane to lift and transfer heavy materials in their work space.
  • Position yourself in a place where you will have the best view of the load as possible, without putting yourself in potential pinch points.

2.)  How should crane operators move loads safely?

  • Ensure proper planning and careful execution each step of the way
  • Avoid stopping and/or starting suddenly. This causes the load to swing, which can damage equipment nearby and be very dangerous to workers in the immediate area.
  • For motorized systems, keep both hands on the pendant control. Releasing the control button—especially on accident—will cause the electric brake to automatically set.
  • Remember that the pendant control—for overhead bridge cranes—moves the load in three directions: forward and backward, side to side, and up and down.
  • Hold the device in the first position in order to drift into the correct position.
  • Remember, ALWAYS lift the load straight up. Do not transfer the load until you have raised it to the appropriate clearance height.

3.)  What should operators avoid when operating an overhead crane?

  • Do not operate the crane if the limit switches are down or out of order. Check cables for defects before using the crane at all.
  • Operators MUST maintain focus on the load; it’s a good idea to always check the intended path before moving the load.
  • Never attempt to lift a load that is heavier than the rated load capacity of the crane.Never lift a load from the side. It’s important to center the load before hoisting to avoid swinging the load into equipment or workers.
  • Never allow a person to ride on a load or hook; cranes are not designed to lift humans or animals.
  • Do not raise the load higher than necessary to clear objects, and do not pass the load over workers on the factory floor.
  • DO not walk on the crane runway or any part of the track at all.
  • NEVER leave a suspended load unattended.

4.)  What should operators do once they’re finished with the crane?

  • Remove the entire load from the crane
  • Raise hooks to a mid-position or intermediate level
  • Ensure that all controllers are in the “off” position before closing the main switch
  • Remember to properly store all unused slings; operators should never swing or toss the pendant control when they are finished with it. Instead, they should walk it back under the bridge.
  • When the crane is not in use, it should be stored in a designated area or safely out of the way.