Importance of Eliminating the Weakest Link

We have all heard of the weakest link. All our lives we’ve been told that a chain is “…only as strong as its weakest link.” This is true - the weak link can cause the chain to fail. In almost every endeavor there is a weak link and we must take steps to identify that specific link. In risk analysis we evaluate each possible action and their consequences. Based on this information we can determine which actions have the highest probability of success, and the actions that have the highest probability of failure. With this information we can minimize or, in many cases, eliminate the weak links.

How could we apply this theory to mobile cranes? If we treat each component or sub-system of the crane as a link, then our crane can be compared to the chain. Let’s take a look at the links in our chain. Our chain may include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following: 

  • Available ground support 
  • Lifting on rubber
  • Lifting on outriggers, as well as the outrigger position
  • Lifting on crawlers, retracted or extended
  • Lifting from the main boom 
  • Lifting from a jib or an extension
  • Size and capacity of the main block
  • Size and capacity of the hook ball 
  • Size, type, construction, and grade of the wire rope both main and aux 
  •  Parts of line or line falls 
  • Allowable line pull
  • Boom length
  • Loaded boom angle
  • Load radius
  • Load and capacity charts
  • Knowledge of the operator (training)
  • Structural competency or stability
  • Environmental conditions (weather)
  • Rigging (slings and hardware)
  • Qualified riggers and signal persons
  • An established inspection and maintenance program that is supervised, documented and enforced 

Understanding these links could be the difference between success or failure. Each time you lift, inspect your “equipment” and identify its weak link. If you do, your chances of an error free lift will increase many times. Keep your equipment in good operating condition and inspect your equipment as required. Choose your operators wisely, provide them with training and professional supervision. It’s that easy.

Author: Joe Crispell, Executive VP, NACB Group, Inc.

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