Monday, July 2, 2012

Can You Hoist a Below The Hook Device Over a Person’s Head?

Think about it. If the crane has no load except the below the hook device are you allowed to lift it and transport it with an overhead crane over someone’s head? I am hoping your answer is “no” because that is the correct answer. People will try to argue this on many levels but you are never allowed to lift any load over someone’s head. I will visit customers and I am amazed at what I often see. Loads are continually lifted over personnel’s heads, and because no one has ever gotten hurt they continue to do so. Is that what it takes to get people to not do something they really shouldn’t be doing? I truly think OSHA needs to spend more time visiting facilities in the general industry and monitor their operation.

In 2007 OSHA wrote an interpretation letter specifically regarding this issue.  Never is there a time when it is ok to lift something over someone’s head. This letter refers back to OSHA’s regulation 1910.179 (n)(3)(vi) which states, The employer shall require that the operator avoid carrying loads over people. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that loads are not carried over someone’s head.

However, because of how this regulation is written, many people will argue that it is ok to carry an empty below the hook device over someone’s head because it is part of the crane. Again this is incorrect. OSHA defines a load as, the total superimposed weight on the load block or hook. Therefore anything below the hook is considered part of the load. This would include slings, spreader beams, scales, magnets, e.t.c.

Talk to your overhead crane service provider about your production process to ensure you are staying within the regulations that have been set in place to keep crane operators safe. Your service provider should be a team member of your production and maintenance staff. Get them involved and see how they can help you today.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Three Questions Should You Be Asking Yourself Regarding The Oil In Your Overhead Crane?

After writing my last post regarding items overlooked on inspections, it occurred to me that there was an item that no one ever mentioned. Oil. I am not referring to the oil level. This is something that is rarely overlooked. I am talking about two factors: The type of oil that gets put into the gearboxes on overhead cranes, and the length of time that oil has been in the gear-case.  

To keep your crane running efficiently you should be asking yourself these three questions regarding your crane’s oil….
  1.         How do I know I have the right oil in my crane’s gear-case?
  2.        What can happen to my crane if I have the wrong oil in my crane’s gear-case?
  3.          Is the oil in my crane’s gear-case still good?

Time and time again I have seen 80/90 weight oil put into gear-cases regardless of what the manufacturer is recommending. 80/90 weight is not a “general lub all” lubricant. There is no such a thing. The confusion of what type of oil to put in a gear-case is caused by the misunderstanding of the oil weight and what it really means. Viscosity is the thickness of oil. The smaller the number the thinner the oil is.  So the thicker it is the less resistant it is to flow. This is why it is so important to have the correct gear oil in your gear-box. Gear-case oil is thicker than your auto transmission oil to give it more protection and the resistant flow is not required to be as low as your car’s transmission. Gear-case oil typically will have additives as well. This will allow for extreme pressure, anti-wear, anti-rusting, demulsibility, or foam resistance. It is also important to know that gear oil is rated by the API (American Petroleum Institute), and motor oil is not, therefore are not comparable.

How do I know I have the right oil in my gear-case?
Depending on the gearing of your crane it is going to require a specific type of oil. Your crane has a recommended viscosity level of your oil to keep the gearing protected and cool.  The type of oil is going to be dependent upon the operating temperature of the gears, the gear speeds, the gear-box pressure, loads, containability , and the type of gearing. Your crane’s owner’s manual should tell you what the required oil is for the gear-boxes. Do not assume that every gear-box on your crane takes the same oil either. This is typically not the case. The hoist gear-box will more than likely take different oil than the bridge gear-case. If you are unsure of the oil type than contact your overhead crane service company and they should be able to provide you with the appropriate type. If the crane’s manufacturer cannot be found and not enough information can be provided to the service company to get the recommended oil then you will need to read the AGMA (American GearManufacturers Association) standard specifications and get an appropriate viscosity level for your gear-box. It is important to note as well that the manufacturers requirement for gear-case oil is specified based on a normal ambient temperature, and operating conditions. If the crane is being used outside these parameters it is possible that you do not have the correct oil even though you are using what is specified for your crane. If this is the case, you will then have to refer back to AGMA standards and pick the most suitable oil grade for your crane.

What happens if you have the wrong oil in your gear-case?
Depending on the oil viscosity is too high or too low you could have several different problems. Both can cause overheating which is the number one sign of the wrong oil. You can also get foaming of the oil that can also cause major oil leaks and severe damage to various components. Excessive noise from the gear-case could also be from the wrong lubrication. During a routine inspection, the overhead crane inspector will check for adequate oil level, and will inspect the gear-case breather. The breather is important because the oil will expand and constrict with the operating temperature. If the breather is clogged, it can blow out the seals on the gear-case. A preventive maintenance program on your overhead cranes can help prevent contamination accumulating in your gear-case. Oil samples on an annual basis is also help see the quality of your oil without the high cost of a gear-case inspection.

Is the oil in my gear-case still good?
 The average shelf life of oil is about 5 years, some oil manufacturers state that their oil is only good for as little as two years. Just because you have oil right out of the barrel, it does not mean that it is good oil. Ask your overhead crane service provider how they store their oil. If they have no method of rotating its stock, or knowing what the shelf life is then you may want to consider who you have servicing your crane.  The average recommended gear-case inspection is recommended every four years. If you haven’t had your gear-case inspected then now is a good time to get it scheduled. The gear-case inspection is very important because not only does it get fresh oil in the gear-case, your internal components will be inspected. It is the only way of knowing if you have any wear. This is where your load brake is on most hoists so it is a vital inspection. If you are changing the oil yourself you should do it when the oil is warm. The gear-case should also be flushed out with flushing oil. When you add the recommended oil you should keep the drain plug off. If the gear-case is running loud, you may have the wrong type of oil or contaminated lubricant. Contaminated lubricant is typically caused by water or dirt getting into the gear-case causing corrosion, and foaming which will deteriorate the oil. This will restrict the amount of oil to the gears and cause gar and bearing wear. Water can get into a gear-case simply through condensation, or moisture.  Other issues could be gear and bearing wear or failure. This is where an annual oil sample will be able to tell if any contaminates are present in the gear-case. These tests also check for metal fragments so you can tell if you are getting wear on your gearing. 

No two oils are the same and just because you have the correct oil in your gear-case it does not mean it is still good if it has been in that gear-case for years. The correct fresh oil is vital to preventing wear on your crane’s gearing, clutches, and load brakes. Take annual samples of the gear-case to inspect for wear, and contamination. Conduct periodic gear-case inspections (typically every 4 years) according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. A preventive maintenance program on your overhead cranes will add a longer life to your equipment and keep them running safe. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

What is the number one component on an overhead crane inspection that gets missed the most?

This is a question that had crossed my mind while trying to come up with an idea to write a presentation for the CCAA Spring Conference in San Diego. I had an idea in my mind of the answer to this question. I decided to ask as many people that I could on this subject. I started with inspectors and then moved on to managers. This is what I found in my small assesment.

What is the number one component on an overhead crane that gets missed the most during an inspection?
1.Wire Rope
2. Pattern Sheave Wear
3. Coupling Lubrication
4. Brake Adjustments
5. Load Hook Wear
6. Load Block Cracks and Wear
7. Wire Rope Terminology
8. Sheave Wear Under and on Sides of Wire Rope
9. Wire Rope Wraps on the Drum
10. Load Chain Wear
11. Regulations

In the crane industry, how do we limit the amount of missed discrepancies during an inspection? I believe it can be done in three ways.

To keep inspectors up with the latest regulations that tend to change every year, inspectors need refresher training on the codes at least once a year. They should also be getting training on various equipment direct from the manufacturer. There are many hoist manufacturers that provide technical training on their equipment and components on your site or at the factory. Contact your hoist manufacturer or a crane training company to help you with this.

Culture is something that takes a long time to develop. So if you don't have it in your company now then NOW is a good time to make that change. To create a culture of safety awareness, and inspection mindedness it needs to start at the top. Like everything, it will trickle down to affect everyone. Don't just relay information and tell people to take inspections seriously. You take it seriously. Talk about inspections at every safety meeting. Discuss why it is important to you and them. Explain the consequences of missing components on inspections. Pick a component during the safety meeting to discuss the proper inspection procedure. Don't just relay the information but get everyone involved and ask their opinion on it. Make it an ongoing discussion.

Another key to producing good inspection results is having the right inspectors out there. Only use inspectors who have demonstrated a excellent knowledge in the field. They should have a high amount of field hours. I would say 4,000 hours is a good amount of time to have under your belt before you become an inspector. Those hours should consist mostly of troubleshooting and installing crane components. This will help them greatly when it comes to narrowing something down on a crane inspection.

When training your personnel you should refresh them on certain component requirements. Especially on the components listed above. It is key to keep inspectors up to date on the updated regulation requirements

Load Hook
  • Discard Load Hook if...
  • Throat Opening is stretched 5% or not over 1/4 inch.
  • No Degree of twist.
  • Saddle Wear of 10% or more`


Wire Rope
  •  A minimum of two wraps must be on the drum at its lowest point.
  •   The three parts of the wire rope from largest to smallest is the Core (D),           Strand (F), and Wire (E). Always remember that a wire rope with one bad wire is acceptable but a wire rope with one bad strand is not. The wire is the smallest component of the wire rope and it is what makes up the strand.
  • Depending on what state you live in you are only allowed a certain number of failed wire rope parts. By OSHA standards you are required to change the wire rope once you have 12 randomly distributed broken wires in one lay or 6 broken wires in one strand of one lay.

·         What is a wire rope lay? A lay is the distance it takes for the wire rope to make a complete revolution around the core of the wire rope. In California by CALOSHA standards you are only allowed 6 randomly distributed broken wires in one pay or 3 broken wires in one strand of one lay.

There is no point doing an overhead crane inspection if it is not going to be accurate. To ensure you’re getting an accurate inspection you need to ensure that you are creating a culture that takes inspections to a higher level, you need to continually provide training for
 all personnel who will be inspecting the overhead cranes. Start with something during all your safety meetings about one overhead crane component. This will help create a culture of mindful inspectors. At the same time if your information is new and pertinent then it will also keep your inspectors up to date on all the new codes and regulations.

What do you feel gets missed the most on overhead crane inspections?
What is a good way to keep your inspector from preventing these mistakes?
As a crane owner what do you expect from your inspection company and how do you know your getting a good inspection?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Konecranes AIRGO Lunch & Learn Thursday April 26th

You're invited to this one time only event! 
Come and see one of the newest Konecranes products!


The Konecranes AIRGO

If you missed the WESTEC trade show then now is your chance to see it again!

When: Thursday, April 26th 2012 from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM
What: See the new Airgo fully assembled with moveable base, and get some hands on use of the air balancer, when you are done grab a free lunch!

R.S.V.P by Wednesday April 25th Noon

Just send email to Matt Tallman with the company name and number of people attending!

Konecranes airbalancers and manipulators offer a wide range of standard and optional features for lifting control. With the high-precision BaseLoad feature, attached grabs of any weight are always kept floating and balanced. This visualization shows the functional difference of a pick and place application, first without and then with BaseLoad feature. 
Konecranes recommends using the BaseLoad feature when a grab has to be attached sideways to a load or if a sensitive load cannot suspend the dead weight of the grab

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bridge Cranes and Hoist Duty Cycles by Guest Blogger Richard Wehrmeister

This week is The LeCrane Chronicles first Bi-Monthly! I want to start the first one with a highly reputable guest blogger. This month I am pleased to have a post from Richard Wehrmeister. Mr. Wehrmeister is the General Manager of AdvancedOverhead Crane out of Houston Texas. Advanced Overhead Crane has been in busy for many years and is highly respected in the Texas area.

I was scrolling through my LinkedIn groups the other day and I came across this post regarding the duty cycles of electric motors. I had thought this gentleman had brought up a good point. Why won’t bridge crane manufacturers label their cranes with the designed duty cycle? Just because you have a H4 duty bridge motors does not mean your trolley is H4 or the duty cycle of the crane itself an H4 rated crane system. It would be beneficial to know what the crane was designed for regardless of the duty cycle of each individual motor on the crane. The hoisting mechanism is an integral part of the crane. Therefore the duty cycle of the hoist should be the same for the crane correct? You would think so, however this is not always the case. So if the manufacture labeled the crane with an overall duty rating, it would help in the future of the crane with decisions for certain retro-fits, and also an increase of crane usage. Lets hear what Richard had to say about this topic…..

Bridge Crane and Hoist Duty Cycles by author: Richard Wehrmeister

For quite some time I have been an advocate of having all manufacturer’s adding the duty cycle designation to both the hoist and the bridge crane nameplate. My reasoning for this is it allows the bridge crane inspector to analyze the actual duty cycle as operated to the manufacturer’s designed duty cycle. It is not unusual to find equipment that is being used beyond the manufacturers designed duty cycle.

Situations that have come up:
• Equipment was sold for one application and over time the application changed to a more strenuous duty cycle.
• Equipment sold did not meet the application requirements from the start.

To give a couple of examples:
• A number of years back we sold a class C crane with a class H3 hoist. The crane was going to be used in a testing lab. The crane/hoist was only being used 3-4 times a day under capacity load. We were trying to save the customers a few dollars with the H3 hoist. Big mistake, after a couple of years the lab was gone and the crane/hoist became a production crane/hoist. While the crane is working trouble free for the operation the H3 hoist would not hold up. In other words the hoist had on going problems with both the mechanical load brake and the hoist motor brake up until we change out the hoist to a H4 classification.
• Not long ago we were asked for a second opinion involving a hoist. When looking at the hoist from the floor, I remarked that it looked like a brand new hoist with the gear cover off. The customer said that the hoist was a few weeks old. I started to question the customer about the application and I noticed a very large lifting magnet sitting at the other end of the shop and looking back up at the hoist I saw a cord reel. Of course my question to the owner was how often did they use the magnet and did they leave the magnet hanging on the hook during a normal shift. This magnet was about the size of a scrap yard magnet and for those of you familiar, they are very heavy. Once I received my answer I told him that the hoist would not work in this application unless he wanted to rebuild the mechanical load brake every few weeks. He was upset and of course I asked him if he addressed the hoist application with the supplier before ordering the hoist. Note: The lifting magnet far exceeded the maximum weight requirements allowed by the manufacturer for a below the hook device on this particular hoist.

The duty service classifications for hoists are listed In ASME HST Performance Standards. ASME lists five duty classifications H1, H2, H3, H4 and H5.

The duty classifications for bridge cranes are listed In CMAA 70 and 74. CMAA lists six duty classifications A, B, C, D, E and F.

Both ASME and CMAA define each classification according to loading groups and the service conditions as close as possible, taking into account the speed, load and quantity of lifts in a time frame.
Getting back to my first paragraph I believe this is a topic that both ASME and CMAA should address when Regulations and Specifications become due for rewrite. A simple change to a name plate is a very small cost when we’re only talking about adding a couple digits to a name plate however the only way these changes can get done is to get more crane inspectors, manufacturers and associations involved in advocating change. You comments would be appreciated.


What do you think about this?
Do you feel that adding the duty rating to the crane will be a benefit for the manufacturer or owner? 
Please share your thoughts on this subject.


Calvin LeClair is a representative of Koneranes, A global overhead crane and hoist service company and manufacturer.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Your Overhead Crane Inspection Report

Often when I go and visit prospects, or new customers I find one thing in common that they are all lacking. Paperwork. It typically doesn’t matter what competitor they are using, they rarely have sufficient paperwork that provides proof of inspections, and or proof of an inspection program that has been performed on a continuing basis. Typically they have several manila folders in a couple different places in their office that has a few service reports and other folders that have crane manuals at best. Then the actual report for the inspection sometimes cannot even be found. If it can, many times it is incomplete, or it is not comprehensive enough to even tell you what the inspector inspected on the crane. A pass or fail for an inspection is just not enough to inform you of your crane issues nor will it keep you compliant. An established paper trail will prevent huge OSHA fines if any accidents were to happen. Companies are fined after major accidents and if they had a paper trail showing they were taking the necessary steps to stay in compliance and keep their facility safe for their workers then the fines would have been nothing near what they received. Let me give you a couple examples of OSHA fines and then I will talk about what is out there on the market for your inspection paperwork.

The first two examples are from an OSHA inspection sweep that was conducted on several companies that had a track record for injured employees. The last one was from a company that had a bad track record of accidents as well but the inspection was conducted because of a related accident.

1. Last year a steel fab shop in Alabama was targeted for an OSHA inspection, not because they had an accident, but because they were targeted for having a higher than average injury and illness rate. They found several serious violations during this walkthrough. Fines totaled $48,510.00. Two of the fines were crane related. They had no inspection records, and someone had welded the hook and no load test was ever conducted.

2. In September of last year Stowe Woodward was fined for similar violations with the same consequences. $49,000 in fines. No frequent crane inspections were ever performed. This is a place that had machinery related fatalities in 1999 and in 2005. I can’t believe after a history like that, a company would not take safety as their number one priority.

3.One of the biggest fines I have ever seen was in Michigan at V&S Detroit Galvanizing in 2009. They were fined a total of $245,000. What struck me was that many were crane related. A $70,000 penalty was charged for moving a rack with a crane over the head of a maintenance employee. Another 70k penalty was charged when the inspector saw the same thing again, only this time they were moving the rack over the employees who were loading the racks below. They were penalized for two additional crane violations, a $7,000 fine for not having an audible warning device on overhead cranes and a $7,000 fine for not performing daily and periodic inspection of overhead cranes.These were all numerous violations that can be found in the state of Michigan’s General Industry Safety Standard, Part 18, Overhead and Gantry Cranes. You can read on more OSHA fines and enforcement information at

Go back and look at your inspection paperwork and ask yourself these ten questions..

1. Was it easy to find?
2. Is it up to date?
3. Does it include all your hoisting equipment in your facility?
4. Do you understand the discrepancies?
5. Do you know what your safety items are?
6. Do you know what crane components were inspected?
7. Do you know what crane components were not inspected?
8. Do you know what the priorities are of the discrepancies found?
9. Do you know if any of those items were repaired?
10. Do you know the investment involved to repair those items?

So, how did you do? Are you comfortable with the reports you currently have? If you answered yes to all ten questions then you have an inspection report that far surpasses most in the industry. You are one step ahead and are taking the necessary steps to keep your employees safe and your company in compliance. Great Job!

If you answered “no” to several of these questions then please take a look at what is available to you from Konecranes. The Konecranes MAINMAN inspection report  is comprehensive and not only will you be able to answer yes to all these questions, you will have much more. With the MAINMAN maintenance report, you will have….

1. A complete equipment list of all your overhead cranes.

2. A condition summary where Konecranes will rate your overhead cranes on a scale from zero to a hundred so you know which cranes should be focused on during the repair process.

3. The MAINMAN will take that one step further and will create a Planning Overview. This will list how many components were inspected on each overhead crane or hoist. The report will then list out of those components, how many had safety related issues, and how many had production issues. This is a great report that will help you organize your repairs once the inspection has been completed.

4. A Work Order follows that list all discrepancies by priority and the condition of each component. This is also the sheet that the crane technician will sign off once the repair of the component has been completed. This will be an important tool for you to tell which component has been repaired and which one still needs to be scheduled.

5. In the Quote section you will get an itemized quote that list the cost for labor and parts for each component requiring repair or replacement.

6. Business Review is provided annually or upon request to show you to total annual investment. This is like a report card. This will help gauge our partnership ensuring that your overhead crane investment is being invested in the right way. Expenses are broken down by inspections, repairs, breakdowns, modernizations, new equipment, training, safety deficiencies, and an equipment score for each piece of equipment. This helps optimize the maintenance schedule reducing your overall investment.

7. Last will be the Condition Detail. This section list every component inspected on your crane regardless of the condition. It is color coded for easy glance so you can just go to the components that have an issue. This section also satisfies your requirements from OSHA keeping you in compliance.

All of these pages come bound together so the pages do not get lost and there is no need for various folders. You will get one book for every annual and quarterly inspection. The quarterly inspection booklet is not as in depth as the annual but still will list the vital information. This information will also all be provided on the Konecranes website

When choosing your overhead crane inspection company ask about their inspection paperwork. Make sure you know what you are getting for proof of inspection. These reports are vital to keeping you compliant and your employees safe.

So, what kind of inspection paperwork do you have for your overhead cranes? Are you comfortable with what you have? What would you like to see in your inspection paperwork?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2011 Changes in ASME B.30.2

Last year ASME changed several parts of the B.30.2. Listening to potential clients has led me to believe that many crane companies are either unaware of the changes or are not making their personnel aware of these changes. I would like to think that the crane industry has a high level of integrity, and holds safety of crane operators as a number one priority. When I am out visiting potential customers and introducing Konecranes to them, I am astonished many times by what the competitor considers passing by their crane service provider. Because of this I wanted to make as many people as I could aware of the changes that went into effect in 2011 for the ASME B.30.2. The last time it was revised was in 2005.

Major changes have been added to the Chapter two sections for Inspections, and Testing. This section was revised for easier understanding and interpretation. Let’s just go over these changes. We will review them in order of the sections to keep this as simple as possible. This will also be a refresher for me since it has been awhile since I reviewed these changes.

1.13.3 Basic Controls (Figs 2-1.13.3-1 through 2-1.13.3-4) used during crane operating cycle shall be located within reach of the operator while at the operating station and labeled as to designated function and direction of movement. (The 2005 version simply stated that they had to be labeled.)

 2-1.14-3 This section they changed the terminology. It previously used the term minimum breaking strength. The new terminology is minimum breaking force. (a) The hoisting ropes shall be of a recommended construction for crane service. The total load (rated load plus weight of load block) divided by the number of parts of line shall not exceed 20% of the minimum breaking force of the rope. They also added this to the list of definitions. ASME defines minimum breaking force as the minimum load at which a new and unused wire rope will break when loaded to destruction in direct tension.

Chapter 2-2 Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance has been revised greatly. They re-titled the chapter Inspection and Testing. Under the inspection section they have added a section titled Initial Inspection. Inspection classification and Inspection records was removed and they have now made a section in the beginning of the chapter for General topics of Inspections and Testing. The Maintenance section has been completely removed. They are focusing only on inspections. The same goes for the Rope Inspection section. This section was revised by removing the sections for Rope Maintenance, and Rope Replacement.

 I think this is a good idea because it was too much information in once section and there really needs to be separate sections for inspections and maintenance since they are completely different. This allows for easier understanding and also easier to navigate the regulations. As far as I could tell I did not see any major changes, but just how they worded the same information. I completely agree with what ASME has done. Finding regulations on cranes is hard enough, and then when you have to interpret them as well it can be confusing with all the different information. It always seems that the information is scattered about and it is up to you to figure out what is important. Now it is a little easier because it is more organized in a way that keeps the reader focused on the issue instead of having to continually re-read and search for the right info. There still needs to be some form of training on these changes at least on an annual basis. Ask your crane service company about the overhead crane training that they provide to the technicians and inspectors that come to work on your equipment. You always want to make sure you have a company that invests in their own people. When you get that, you will always get a reliable person working on your equipment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Do I Need to Know About Crane Operator Training?

There are two key factors you will find when accidents occur in a facility. Either it is caused by complacency or ignorance. There is only one way to reduce this thinking of employees. That is to make safety a value shared by all in the company. Safety must be a culture created by the management of the company. It needs to be believed in by all. If everyone does not buy into then it will not become a culture. When you have a culture of safety committed personnel, ignorance and complacency are no longer factors. The only way to create this culture is to make safety your number one priority above all else including productivity and profitability. If employees believe that the company they work for cares more about their well being than the profit of the company then they will take pride in that and not only will they work safer, they will also watch out for others to ensure the safety for those that work around them .

One key ingredient in creating a safety oriented culture is by providing ongoing safety training. Refreshing employees on safety steps they can take in the facility to make their work day safer will help keep safety in the forefront if their minds daily. Ongoing safety training would include daily and weekly safety talks, monthly safety meetings, and annual training on major safety issues. One major safety issue in your facility is your cranes. Out of all the regulations required by OSHA and ANSI the one that get missed the most would have to be qualifying crane operators. Many companies know to inspect their cranes but they fail to think about the people who are actually operating them. Many will even put an operator on a crane that doesn’t even have any experience operating one. A company will invest in inspections and repairs but will then fail to take that next step to ensure their employees are fully trained in operating the equipment. Not only is this against various codes, and regulations set forth by governing bodies, it is also a great liability.

Barclays California Code of Regulations Section 5006 qualifies an operator by stating, “Only employees authorized by the employer and trained, or known to be qualified, in the safe operation of cranes or hoisting apparatus shall be permitted to operate such equipment.” It is also written in the regulations, “Trainees may be authorized to operate cranes or hoisting apparatus provided they are under the supervision of a qualified operator.”

ASME B.30.2 regulations are what OSHA will reference for crane operator training requirements. ASME requires that cranes be operated by ONLY designated persons, trainees under the direct supervision of a designated person, maintenance and test personnel, when it is necessary in the performance of their duties, and inspectors. Now to be considered qualified by ASME, they required that the crane operator SHALL be required by the employer to pass a practical operating examination. Qualifications shall be limited to the specific type of equipment for which the operator is being examined.

There are many things to consider when providing crane operator training for your employees. For one you need to ensure that it is adequate for the type of equipment you have in your facility. You don’t want to provide a basic 15 minute video on crane safety and a test for a facility that has several bridge cranes. The higher the capacity and more complex the operation the longer you should expect the class to be. Minimally, there are FIVE items you want to discuss and test on in the training class that you’re going to be providing for your employees.

1. Daily Crane and Hoist Inspections

This is the most important part of the class. This rarely gets done in most facilities and typically is because the operators not knowing it is their responsibility. There is actually a lot that goes into a daily check and the larger the crane the more intense the daily check will be. A daily check is vital for safe operations in your facility. This also helps the operator have a better understanding of the equipment they are operating. If it is checked on a daily basis than something that is not ordinarily there will be more easily noticed by the operator and will be picked up potentially preventing an accident.

2. Components of a Crane

An operator will be unable to do an appropriate daily inspection if they do not even know the correct terminology of the crane components. The daily inspection checklist has several crane components listed. Without knowing the correct terminology it could lead to an incorrect inspection results and a crane that could be potentially unsafe. If your operators do know the correct terminology they will be able to not only write it up properly but they will be able to inform the crane vendor of any issues that they are having with the crane that won’t be misinterpreted by the vendor. This will allow a more precise diagnosis and lowering your investment by spending less on time spent troubleshooting.

3. Safe Operation of a Crane

Do your operators know how to stop a load swing if it was to occur in your facility? Do they know what to do if they have a runaway crane? Do all your employees know where the main crane disconnect is located in your facility? These are all important questions and if your training does not incorporate any of these items in your training then you do not have the appropriate training program.

4. Hands On crane operation of a crane in the facility

This part is where they take what they learnt in the class and incorporate into some hands on that the crane operators can try out and get confident while you have a professional crane operator instructor in your facility. If you go back to the OSHA and ASME regulations you will see that the regulations require you to pass a “practical operating exam”. This test will suffice for this part of the regulation.

5. Basic Rigging

The number one reason for a crane accident that is caused by operator error is poor rigging. Anything you do with a crane will require some form of rigging. Your operators MUST know the proper way to rig the load. Regardless if you’re using slings, shackles, spreader bars, or other rigging attachments there is still a proper way to use them. A basic rigging instruction will help them be more efficient and safe operators.

In 2011 the Konecranes Training Institute conducted a study that analyzed crane accidents and the fatalities from those accidents. The information from this study was taken from 10 years of public OSHA Inspection Reports. The findings were very alarming if you are a crane operator. This study found that 58% of people injured or killed were crane operators. 37% of crane incidents a person were crushed by a load. This was the result of load drops, or load swings. You can see how serious these findings are. If there is a crane accident, there is a great chance the crane operator will be hurt or killed. This study analyzed that 70% of these accidents were preventable with proper operator safety training.

In closing, it is the crane operators’ responsibility to ensure that they are operating the crane safely; however it is the employer’s responsibility to train their employees with the knowledge to operate the cranes in a safe and efficient manner. When you’re incorporating crane operator training into your safety program, ensure that you have the appropriate material for your employees. Look into a training program that will discuss your equipment, and all five important items to discuss during training.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mechanical Load Brake Operation and Inspection

There are many misconceptions of mechanical load brakes on lifting equipment. I have heard from many customers that they think the load brake is designed to hold the load during normal hoisting operation. This is not completely correct. I have also been told from customers that load brakes are required to be inspected on an annual inspection. This too is incorrect. There are two basic reasons hoist have load brakes. The mechanical load brake has to control the speeds when lowering the load, and has to be able to hold the load when the motor is not running. The load brake operates very similar to a nut and bolt. Let me introduce you to load brakes and give you a brief description of how the load brake works and see if I can help you understand the load brake functionality and inspection frequency for them.

During the hoisting mode the load brake is unlocked and freewheeling. The purpose of a “load brake in a hoist application is to keep the suspended load from falling without power to the hoist and independent of the motor brake.” When the load is being lowered the clutch locks stopping the load brake system from rotating. As soon as the motor stops driving the load, or the load travels faster than the motor then pressure will be applied to the friction disc. If the electric motor brake fails the load brake will completely lock to hold the load. You will also be able to lower the load to the ground. This is done by the self-adjusting clutch. The brake will tighten slowing the load, and the load brake loosens if it is going too slow. This is a rapid succession that keeps the load controlled. If you hear a clicking sound when the load is being raised, this is the pawl hitting the ratchet teeth. You should not be hearing this noise if the load brake is adjusted properly.
Let me explain my statement when I said that it is not completely true that the load brake is designed to hold the load during normal hoisting operation. The load brake actually works together with the hoisting brake. The Weston style load brake (pawl & ratchet) holds approximately 25 to 30% of the load being picked up. The holding brake does the bulk of the work. This is why it is vital to have your holding brake inspected frequently so the load brake does not end up doing all the work causing it to wear faster.

The other misconception is that the load brake requires an annual inspection. This is incorrect. All load brakes are self-adjusting and minimum maintenance is required. There is however cases the load brake require an inspection. If you hear clicking sounds coming from your load brake then an adjustment is required and can be done externally with the adjustment nut. However if it has been several years since the gear case has been opened and inspected than it is a good idea to open the gear case to inspect the brake linings and other components. Lubrication to the load brake is also highly important. Every time pressure is applied to the load brake the heat is dissipated by the lubricant. If not enough lubrication is in the gear case than the brake will over heat destroying the brake liners. In some cases forced cooling is required for heavy loads. The lubrication should either be changed out annually or lab tested. The viscosity of the lubricant is vital to control the operating temperature of the gear case. Old or dirty oil will change the original viscosity of the oil. Like anything oil too has a shelf life even if it is clean. If the viscosity or oil level is too high or too low it can cause overheating, excessive power consumption, and foaming. It is recommended to inspect the gear case and load brake every 4 years or per your OEM. Each OEM will have a different recommendation so check with your owner’s manual for inspection frequency. It is recommended as well to test the load brake annually at 25% of the load capacity. Not following your OEM recommendations could result to premature wear of your load brake.

I hope this small amount of information has been helpful to you. The inspection process although not annually is very important in safety of your crane and in extending the life of it. It may be a costly investment but it is vital in preserving the life of your crane and the safety of those that work under it.