About the authors:
Pat Brownlee writes for Blog4Safety.com, a part of Texas America Safety Company, (tasco-safety.com), who wishes to share safety advice. Texas America Safety Company has been in the safety supply business for over twenty years, serving the world with quality safety products. Our phone number is 800-646-5346 or 325-646-5346.
Nathan Gladwin is the business development manager of Harold Potter Ltd. They provide lifting equipment, heavy duty cranes and overhead cranes for construction, manufacturing and industry in the United Kingdom. Their website is haroldpotter.co.uk. Our phone number is 01159-838-111. In this piece, two companies come together as experts within their respective fields to discuss the safety requirements and protective equipment that crane operators and heavy lifting crews should be deploying to reduce and minimise the dangers and inherent risks of working within heavy industry.
Accidents keep happening every day, often due to someone’s irresponsibility. It isn’t surprising to learn that cranes at construction sites, drilling rigs, and mines are popular places for serious injuries, and sometimes death. If Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, had been used, possibly these accidents could have been prevented, or at best, less serious injuries may have occurred.
Nathan: “One of the tasks I perform every Friday morning is to see what news and developments are happening in our industry, this often finds me encountering health and safety incidents and accidents at work involving cranes. It’s important to know the mistakes others are making so that we can adequately address the needs of our customers. Due to the sheer number of silly accidents and fatalities I decided to seek out opportunities to speak about personal protective (PPE) and safety equipment that in our opinion should be issued to crane operators and lifting crews working within heavy industry.”
There is much responsibility for crane companies to train their operators and ground crews to go about their business as safely as possible. In the United States, OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards. The lifting, maneuvering and moving of heavy loads means the chances of impact or collisions are quite likely at some point.
Pat: “Flame resistant clothing, gloves, head protection, eyewear and protective footwear are all examples of PPE. The particular job hazards will dictate the type of PPE that is needed for a certain crane project. All protective clothing and equipment should be appropriate and specific for the job and the potential hazards. Workers must always ensure that their PPE is clean and functional. In the case it is damaged, they should return it to their supervisor for replacement.”
Nathan: “It’s often not a question of if, but when it will happen. A hard hat will protect you from knocks or impacts that would cause concussion or may potentially result in a death. It’s not just swinging loads; people have been seriously hurt and injured from tripping into hardened or blunt stationary objects.”
Pat: “Yes, operators should wear a hardhat; most hardhats have the capability for face shields or other safety products to be attached as necessary.”
Can you give us an example as to how and why hard hats should always be worn? Do you find people are complacent about their own health and safety?
Nathan: “A particularly memorable example that comes to mind is that of a bizarre death involving a crane operator carrying out lifting at a cargo port. The straps that were used to secure a load of heavy steel were either not suitable for the job or were possibly fatigued and in a state of disrepair. In any case, the straps buckled under pressure and a metal bolt was projected at high velocity striking the operator in the head. This sadly concluded with the operators’ death. A hard hat may have saved his life.”
Pat: “…yes, it was too hot, or too uncomfortable, on and on. Now, manufacturers and designers have designed protective clothing, safety glasses, and gloves that fit small persons, large persons, and women, who usually require smaller clothing. So, there’s really no good excuse for not wearing your PPE.”
Nathan: “As a crane operator, there will be something to meet the specific environment you work in. PPE and hi-vis clothing comes available in everything from light waist coats, pants, coveralls to extreme all weather suits and jackets.”
Is some PPE more important than others?
Pat: “We believe all PPE is vital, so it’s hard to classify which one is the most important. First aid kits should be available – both in the crane and on the ground. Gloves that are good for gripping gears should be used, and if necessary, there are flame resistant coveralls, jackets, etc. Fire equipment should also be on board.”
Nathan: “…It can be heart sinking to discover missing kits or whereby they have not been replenished over time when they’re needed. It’s not really possible to answer what’s most important, as the risk will be different dependent upon the situation or project.”
Pat: “For eye protection, there are impact resistant safety glasses, goggles, and over-the-glasses safety glasses. Most workers want to wear good safety shoes, ones that have steel-toes, (unless they work around electricity), and that will equally keep them safe from slips, trips and falls.
What would you recommend for specific roles within lifting crews?
Pat: “For the signalers, who know all safety regulations pertaining to cranes and the work that is being performed, hardhats would be a must. Regulations allow only one person to be the signaler, being sure the operator acknowledges every signal, and maintains constant sight with the operator. Signalers are to stop the operation at once if communication with the crane operator is lost.”
The laws of gravity govern that what goes up must come down; the question of how to stay safe will be on many peoples’ minds when in close proximity to or involved in such activity.
Nathan: “Safety shoes, boots or trainers of the sufficient safety grade will prevent your feet from getting crushed, and it’s never nice to hear about how someone had to have a foot or limb amputated when simple equipment can make all the difference.”
Pat: “For those who are part of boom assembly or disassembly, and working on tower cranes, OSHA requires the use of fall arrest systems when working at an unsafe height.”
Cranes and lifting equipment are used in all sorts of challenging locations such as shipping ports, dry-docks, drilling rigs, building and construction sites or manufacturing workshops. I imagine being able to clearly hear a persons’ voice over the background noise can be challenging even when conditions are ideal. How do people stay safe in these conditions?
Nathan: “If you cannot be heard, then it’s imperative that you can be seen! Much of today’s modern and robust safety clothing and garments feature high visibility materials and fabrics, reflective surfaces and dyed in bright colours. They are of course the iconic sign that you work in industry and you’re to be taken seriously. You backup your chances of remaining safe in dangerous or hazardous conditions by ensuring if that you’re not always sharp to seeing a potential threat, that at least someone else can be looking out for you.”
Pat: “The rest of the crew should be wearing hi-visibility vests or jackets, hardhats, gloves, and safety glasses. The use of hi-visibility hardhats, vests, and gloves would be very important in these situations. There are gloves that have bright colors, and unless this interferes with the hand signals they give the crane operator, this would be helpful.”
What are your concluding thoughts?
Nathan: “We can be sure PPE isn’t an outright replacement for common sense, intelligence and foresight thinking; however it does in fact compliment this extremely well and will prevent companies from experiencing the negative repercussions.”
Pat: “Training is the main key to a successful crew. We are in agreement with the statement you made that PPE isn’t an outright replacement for acting properly. In case of emergencies, the employer should know that the crews are well-trained in CPR, first aid, and emergency response. Operating any type of heavy equipment is a huge responsibility, with others depending on the operator’s skill and knowledge of safety.”