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Rigging and Hoisting Practices for Safer Crane Operation

Rigging and hoisting are some of the most dangerous jobs in a construction site. The latest data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) recorded a total of 297 crane-related deaths, or approximately 42 per year between 2011 to 2017. In lifting and rigging procedures, even the smallest mistake can immediately result in serious injuries and fatalities. 

Common causes of rigging injuries fall into two categories: equipment failure and unsafe rigging procedures.

When hoists and winches are defective, misused, poorly maintained, or unsuitable for the job, serious accidents can occur. In this article, we highlight common rigging and hoisting hazards to watch out for as well as safety practices every rigger must know.

Hazards that can arise during rigging and hoisting

Electrical hazards

Many high-risk rigging accidents involve crane contact with overhead power lines. Research shows that electrocutions cause one of every ten construction worker deaths.

When moving materials, a crane's hoist line, safety hooks, or boom may touch a high-voltage power line. While those directly in contact with the crane face the greatest risk of electric shock, anyone in the vicinity is also at risk. With crane-related electrical hazards, a single accident can result in multiple deaths and injuries.

OSHA regulations recommend that rigging and hoisting workers maintain a 10-foot radius from power lines to protect them from electrical shock. Insulated barriers, fences, tape, and other physical indicators must also be set up when working near power lines.  Safety gear should always be worn as well to avoid contact with wires and power sources.

Falling materials

Falling materials can hit workers, causing severe injuries and deaths. It can also result in serious structural damage if large objects fall on buildings.

This type of hazard is often due to rigging failure, loose or shifting materials, equipment breakdowns, and improper securing of the load. When the sling, load, or other attachments are incorrectly secured, the load can swing or tip, causing materials to slide off and fall.

Incidents related to falling materials can also be attributed to human error such as when the operator is unfamiliar with proper hoisting protocols or the type of crane being operated. They can also be caused when one or more parts of the lift and/or crane malfunction while a load is being pulled up.

There are several ways to prevent injuries from falling objects. First, use netting and barriers to catch falling objects before they injure anyone. Second, triple-check if loads are secured properly before proceeding with the lift. Lastly, workers should wear hard hats and complete personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times.

Collapsing cranes

a construction crane

Cranes have weight limits to prevent them from tipping over. If the lifting capacity is exceeded, the boom could collapse, resulting in broken bones, head injuries, or spinal cord damage.

Routine load testing should be performed to ensure that your workers know your crane’s lifting capacity and that they don’t exceed it. 

While modern cranes are designed to lift heavier loads, it’s still possible to make an incorrect estimation of a crane’s maximum capacity. To avoid this mistake, ensure that your employees are well-trained on the crane’s load dynamics and lifting capacities.

Rigging safety do’s and don’ts

Do’s

  • Ensure workers undergo appropriate safety training, which should cover sling and hitch types, safe lifting techniques, load weight, equipment care and maintenance, sling capacity determination, and center of gravity determination.
  • Use only certified and appropriate hoists and chain rigging equipment.
  • Report any equipment damage or malfunction immediately.
  • Identify the right lifting hooks, shackles, plates, or hitch for the type of load.
  • Ensure no one is in the vicinity when loads are being lowered or lifted.
  • Ensure load slings and other attachments are properly sized and positioned.
  • Determine the breaking strength of the used ropes or slings before use.
  • Keep hands and feet clear of pinch points. 
  • Be familiar with operating controls, labels, and warnings of the unit.
  • Always use appropriate PPE.
  • Always ensure clear and transparent communication between the operator and rigger.
  • Avoid horizontal forces by using a spreader beam. 
  • Prevent cuts or tears by using padding to pack the load.
  • Double-check the safety latch in all hooks.
  • Check the swing area, barricade it, and warn people nearby.
  • Determine the safe and appropriate hooking angle and sling tension.
  • Use a minimum of two taglines to control the movement of the lifted load.
  • Exercise caution when operating cranes in areas near overhead power lines. As much as possible, maintain a slower-than-normal rate.
  • Ensure the load to be lifted is free of any loose materials.

Don’ts

  • Don’t overload the sling beyond its recommended capacity.
  • Don’t shorten slings with bolts, knots, or other makeshift devices.
  • Never leave the suspended load unattended.
  • Never lower the load until the area below is clear of people, buildings, and other structures.
  • Never use equipment that is damaged or has not passed the inspection.
  • Do not remove manufacturer’s labels, instructions, or warning signs on the hoist.
  • Don’t allow the chain or even the body of the hoist to come in contact with the load.
  • Do not push or pull loads out from under the hoist.

Ensure safe and effective operations with superior rigging hardware

Many hoisting-related accidents could have been prevented simply by implementing safe rigging practices and procedures, properly training operators, and using proper equipment.

Contact us for high-quality slings, rigging gear, material handling, and load securement.

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