Materials in Motion

Standards and Principles to Follow for Crane Inspections

When considering crane inspection, one of the most basic questions to ask is: what rules and standards do I follow? The answer might seem simple at first. It might seem like the natural answer would be OSHA, specifically OSHA 1910.179 Overhead and Gantry Cranes. This answer certainly isn’t wrong, but it isn’t the whole story either.

Even more specifically than 1910.179, OSHA 1910.179(j) outlines when and how cranes should be inspected. However, OSHA 1910.179(j) is a relatively short section. It is certainly not an exhaustive list of every part of every crane that must be inspected, and it can’t possibly list out every single possible cause for a crane to fail its inspection. But there is more to OSHA’s requirements than 1910.179(j). One of the most important sections of OSHA to be familiar with is OSHA 1910.6.

Incorporated by Reference

OSHA 1910.6 is a section titled Incorporation by Reference, and it has a significant bearing on overhead crane inspection. 1910.6(a)(1) states that “the standards of agencies of the U.S. Government, and organizations which are not agencies of the U.S. Government which are incorporated by reference in this part, have the same force and effect as other standards in this part.” We’ve written about OSHA’s Incorporation by Reference (IBR) in the past, but generally speaking, it means that privately developed, nationally recognized industry standards are effectively considered to be OSHA standards and are enforceable as law.

This clause means that additional standards beyond OSHA, such as CMAA, ANSI, and others, carry the same weight as OSHA standards if they are incorporated into the relevant OSHA standard. To fully answer the question of what standards should be followed for crane inspections, we have to look at IBR standards that address the topic. ASME/ANSI B30.2, CMAA 70, and CMAA 78 are some of the most relevant standards, but there are many IBR standards throughout OSHA.

What Cranes to Inspect

The question of what cranes get inspected is another that might seem obvious, but there is still some possible confusion. Note that there are many different varieties of cranes; if you look through OSHA letters of interpretation, you might find that some interpretations state exceptions for some particular cranes. However, letters of interpretation are written in response to specific questions, and they should not be used to determine whether or not you should inspect any given piece of equipment. Such interpretations only apply to the specific situations they are addressing, and those exceptions are for very specific circumstances. You can consult with local OSHA offices to obtain interpretations if you have questions about specific situations.

Instead of reading letters of interpretation, a better option is to rely on another clause in OSHA that is similar to Incorporation by Reference, known as the General Duty Clause. This clause states that “each employer shall furnish . . . employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards.”

The General Duty Clause essentially means that if there is an existing nationally recognized industry standard, it should be followed. OSHA 1910.179 may not provide requirements for every single crane type, style, and variety, or incorporate all external standards by reference, but those external standards identify “recognized hazards” and can be cited through the General Duty Clause. So, the short answer is that, through the General Duty Clause, every device with a hook must be inspected.

What Components to Inspect

When you know what cranes need to be inspected and what standards need to be followed, the question remains of exactly what needs to be inspected on each crane. OSHA offers some insight into this question, but for a more complete answer, we have to look elsewhere.

The first place to look is the owner’s manual or maintenance manual provided by the manufacturer. The crane manufacturer will most likely provide a manual with the crane that will include an inspection checklist. The checklist will typically list out each component that must be inspected, how frequently different parts or assemblies must be checked, and how to determine if a component passes or fails the inspection.

If there is no inspection checklist included in the manufacturer’s manual, the next best place to look is CMAA Spec 78. CMAA 78 is one of the specs that we mentioned is incorporated by reference in OSHA 1910.179. In case the manufacturer doesn’t provide a checklist, this specification offers similar inspection checklists that can identify the systems and components that most commonly need to be inspected.

Inspection Frequency

The frequency of inspection depends on a number of factors. The crane service classification is one important determining factor. CMAA classifications A through F consider how often a crane is used at or near its maximum capacity, how many lifts it performs per hour, how far loads are lifted, and several other metrics. The higher the classification, the more frequently the crane will require inspection.

Another determining factor is the frequency of use. The number of shifts a crane is used each day will affect the rate at which parts wear, and consequently how often it should be inspected.

The type of inspection that is being performed also factors into inspection frequency. Inspections are often performed on a few different schedules. These schedules can be thought of as periodic inspections, frequent inspections, and pre-shift inspections. Pre-shift inspections are performed before every use and are used to check for any immediately visible signs that a crane might be unfit for operation.

Frequent and periodic inspections are more dependent on their determining factors. Frequent inspections are fairly routine, occurring semi-annually for cranes with the least usage and daily for cranes with the heaviest usage. Periodic inspections are the most comprehensive, and they are often referred to as annual inspections. Cranes operated at lighter usage typically only require periodic inspections annually, but the most severe usage will require this type of inspection as often as every month.

As always, the best way to know exactly when and how to inspect any crane is to consult the manufacturer. Routinely inspecting your cranes and equipment will help keep them in the best operating condition, and the manufacturer can help you optimize your inspection process for the best results.