Thorough Lift Planning is Key to a Successful Lift

Lift planning is an integral part of the pre-construction process. It adds another layer of safety while lowering costs and increasing the productivity of field operations.

Sufficient planning and supervision are necessary in preventing crane accidents. If something goes wrong, the result is likely to be disastrous. Severe damage to property with risk of injury or loss of life is a real possibility. Good planning not only protects cranes but also the people working around them. When used correctly with a trained and competent crew, cranes can be effective, safe pieces of equipment.

Although ASME is developing consensus standard P30, Planning for Load Handling Activities, there isn’t a nationally recognized lift-planning regulation or standard as of today. Most often, lift planning is directed by a project’s controlling organizations. When broken down into stages, and with consideration given to the load, equipment, personnel, and site, developing a comprehensive lift plan—no matter how complex the lift—can be straightforward.

Know your limitations

The No. 1 question you must ask is do you have the proper equipment and competent staff in-house to put together the plan and crew necessary to make a safe lift? One qualified person should be assigned to take full control and total responsibility for the planned lift. A “qualified person” is one who has a degree or professional standing in an applicable field, or who has technical knowledge, extensive training, and experience by demonstrating the ability to solve potential problems that relate to the work. This person must develop a safe plan for the lifting operations that manages risks associated with the load-handling activities and satisfies the needs of the contractor.

Visit the site

In my opinion, there is never enough time given to the site visit. In many instances, assumptions are made in the estimating process about site conditions. The person assigned to create the lift plan should visit the site to get all the information needed to ensure the lift can be made from a specific location, and that ground conditions are suitable for supporting the weight of a crane and the materials that will be lifted. The qualified person should also plan for the best possible access and egress for the assembly and disassembly of the crane and the materials to be lifted. Proximity to existing hazards and any ongoing construction work that may develop during the planning phase should be of particular interest when developing the lift plan.

Once a rough sketch of the area has been made and some detailed notes taken, the qualified person can start considering other aspects of the lifting process.

Detailed written information regarding the load or loads must be obtained. This information should include such items as:

  • Description: What type of load will you be lifting?
  • Weight: Are the net and gross load weights known? Did you remember to factor in the weight of a crane load block, jib, rigging, hook ball and swivel, all cable below boom point, and other accessories?
  • Contents: Are there any hidden contents that could affect load weight and stability, or that could be hazardous if spilled? Is the center of gravity marked on the load?
  • Nearby collision hazards: Is the crane site suitable? Is the crane next to a haul road? Can the crane’s superstructure rotate 360° without coming into contact with any object, creating a trapping point between the counterweight and the fixed object? Can the crane be assembled and disassembled with outriggers or crawlers fully extended in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications?
  • Ground conditions: Is the ground on which the crane is to sit firm and level? Is it capable of withstanding the ground-bearing pressure of an outrigger jack or a crawler-crane track with the load suspended over the corner of the track or outrigger? Are there any hollow structures under the crane pad? Are crane mats needed to stabilize soft ground? Information on ground-bearing pressures can be obtained from the crane supplier and manufacturer.

Choosing the crane

After considering the loads and the location of the crane, the qualified person should choose the load-handling equipment. For example, if the crane is needed for an extended period and the ground conditions are too soft for a mobile truck crane, the qualified person may opt for a crawler crane. This person must know the following about the crane selected for the lift:

  • The capacity and limitations of each crane type;
  • The methods of work the crane can perform;
  • The crane’s safe working loads (as shown on its capacity chart);
  • The dimensions and weight of the crane, both in transit and after being fully set up; and
  • The outrigger or track ground-bearing pressures.

Additionally, the qualified person should check with local agencies for any restrictions or limitations on crane operations in the area, establish a plan to erect or dismantle the crane, and identify required inspections and tests for the equipment and load-handling activity.

Selecting rigging, accessories, and attachments

Choosing the right rigging gear and accessories is just as important as the site visit, load calculations, and crane choice. Commonly used rigging equipment, such as wire rope slings, single chain slings, pin shackles, man-made fiber flat belts and round endless slings, eyebolts, and multiple-leg slings, just to name a few, must be in good working order and free of common, easily-identifiable faults and defects.

The qualified person is responsible for choosing the rigging, accessories, and attachments most suitable for the lifting operation. This decision may depend on consulting with others and relying on the manufacturer’s instructions and guidance. When choosing rigging or lifting accessories, the qualified person must pay particular attention to:

  • The safe working loads or working load limits of the rigging and accessories;
  • The number and type needed;
  • The number of legs required;
  • The suitability to and compatibility of rigging and accessories with each other and with lifting points; and, most importantly,
  • The calculation of sling angles and legs.

Rigging manufacturers provide a large amount of technical information on proper use of their products. Much of this is designed with the user in mind and is simplified to ensure that the user fully understands how to use the products safely and efficiently. The qualified person also needs to visually inspect all rigging and accessories before use. This inspection will identify the most common faults that may occur during use. These include :

  • Cuts and tears;
  • Deformity;
  • Discoloration;
  • Stretching, distortion, and elongation of links and components;
  • Hard and soft areas on man-made slings;
  • Rust and corrosion;
  • Missing items, such as safety catches and pins; and
  • Missing markings, such as identification numbers and working load limit marks.

Personnel duties

The qualified person may in certain circumstances delegate duties to an equally competent superintendent or crane operator. This person’s role is similar to the qualified person’s but is more hands-on, because he or she is implementing the qualified person’s instructions rather than issuing them. The most important role of the superintendent, qualified rigger, certified signal person, and the operator is to stop the lift if:

  • He or she does not understand what is required;
  • Unplanned changes to the lifting operation occur; or
  • There are doubts about the continued safety of the lift or crew involved with the lift.

The qualified person will direct the lift with the assistance of the crane operator, certified signal person, or qualified rigger, and the operator, signal person, or rigger shall be responsible for the attachment and removal of rigging gear and crane accessories. The basic criterion to remember is that all people involved must be competent. All personnel involved with the lift must be able to work together as a team. Each is equally responsible for the safety and well-being of the others.

The key to this team involvement is that the qualified person must bring together information and people from several areas to ensure that the lift is planned properly, supervised appropriately, and carried out safely.

This information is only a guideline to a successful lift. Each lift is different and requires attention to detail by all companies involved in cranes and lifting. With the new OSHA regulations in effect, it is more important than ever to become familiar with planning lifts, which manages risk and reduces the cost of construction.


Author: Frank Kazenske, executive director and director of labor relations, AGC of Illinois

Source: Lift and Access Magazine

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