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August 16, 2022

Overhead crane and hoist safety

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An overhead crane is an important tool in many operations and industries. It’s typically used when you need to lift and move large, heavy loads that other material handling methods cannot. The hoisting mechanism is an integral part of the machine used to perform the lifts. The principle of the hoist goes back to ancient times—even the Roman Coliseum used cranes and hoists.   

However, despite their consistent use, multiple hazards can arise while using cranes. Every company that uses overhead lifting systems should be aware of the two main causes of accidents: overloading and loads not being safely rigged before being hoisted. Preventing a disaster requires workers to recognize certain hazards that occur during operation and follow safety procedures to avoid them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates overhead crane safety in standard number 1910.179. This regulation covers overhead and gantry cranes (I.e., one built on top of a structure that spans a workspace) general requirements, design, inspection, maintenance requirements and operations. 

Proper inspection and maintenance provide the means for detecting potential hazards and is necessary for the safe, reliable, and uninterrupted operation of the overhead cranes. Ultimately, preventive maintenance begins with the operator.

Below is a general safety checklist for an overhead crane.

Before use inspection

Prior to each use the crane operator should:

  • Visually examine the crane and/or hoist to check for damage or missing parts including:
    • Hooks
    • Chains and wire rope
    • Hydraulic and/or pneumatic components, if present
  • Test all functional mechanisms for improper adjustment
  • Test the function of the upper load limit switch

Frequent inspection

On a daily or monthly basis, a written inspection should be conducted on:

  • Hooks
  • Hoist chains and wire rope
  • Functional operation of all controls including limit switch
  • Hydraulic and/or pneumatic components, if present

Periodic Inspection

On an annual basis a written inspection will be conducted by a qualified contractor, or an employee qualified by training and/or experience, and consisting of:

  • All elements listed under “frequent inspection”
  • Deformed, cracked, or corroded parts
  • Loose bolts or rivets
  • Cracked or worn sheaves or drums
  • Excessive wear on brake system parts
  • Load wind and other indicators over their entire functional range
  • Excessive wear of chain drive sprockets
  • Excessive chain stretch
  • Electrical components
  • Control components
  • All additional inspection elements as required by the crane or hoist manufacturer

Proper crane and hoist safety is critical for anyone using this helpful and necessary tool to ensure the job gets done not only efficiently, but safely as well. Accidents and issues do occur, however, so be sure you’re properly covered. To discuss coverage and for more information on safe use of overhead cranes, reach out to your MMA representative today.