Keep it safe on-site

on 30 April, 2012

Each week we take one morning to look at, reflect and evaluate what's happening within the industries dependent upon cranes to function from the perspective of newbuilds, demolitions, strategic business decisions and serious accidents and injuries involving cranes.

We do this because we believe it is both valuable for us to stay in touch with the reality of what’s happening within our customers' world and to also learn the lessons from the mistakes that others are making in order not to repeat them ourselves.

Hard hat head protection is standard on most building, construction or manufacturing sites, particularly if material is being lifted above five metres upon where it is considered an overhead safety risk. At this point it becomes a legal requirement for head protection to be worn even within the vicinity. Impacts, collisions or falling loads are very real occurrences and typical of the threats crane operators face in their daily working conditions.

People sustain injuries and concussions when trips and falls have been the primary contributing factor combined with the collision of a hard surface or heavy object. A hard blow to the head without the relevant PPE has been cause of death on many occasions.

While a hard hat offers no guarantee of protection against loads, it goes a long way in affording an individual at least some protection and is still one of the most valuable bits of kit readily available. Head gear can be flexible enough to allow the additions of Perspex visors or more coverage.

Accidents range from common load spills to completely unforeseen things that can happen. A more unusual example comes from a crane operator in New Zealand who died after an accident occurred while he was operating a dockside crane.

The operator in question was lifting a heavy load of reinforced steel beams when the strapping securing the load buckled under stress causing a bolt to be projected off at high velocity. It struck the operator in the head, killing him instantly. 

That was an extreme example and in general, there are a far more accidents that don't result in any loss of life, yet remain mostly untold.

It is vitally important for businesses to understand the responsibility they play in providing the appropriate levels of supervision, training and equipment as they are ultimately accountable for the lives and well-being of their employees if safe working practise and procedures are not being followed or adhered to.

Safety shoes, boots or trainers provide the extra hardened reinforcement required to protect from crush damage to lower limbs and extremities resulting from dropped or spilled loads.

It’s clear the human body was never designed nor evolved to withstand the weights of the sorts of loads and materials we lift within industrialised nations. It is also important to understand the grade or level of shoe or boot worn by a warehouse worker or Police officer will most often not be the same as used within industrial settings.

The conditions and environments in which cranes are expected to cope range from construction sites, container ports, extreme weather conditions to both small commercial and domestic lifting operations. A combination of the crane, environment and job requirements dictate precisely what PPE needs to be used and this should be discussed and assessed prior to any work even starting.

If you cannot be heard, make sure you're highly visible to everybody. Florescent clothing such as vests, jackets and trousers are standard requirements in almost any environment in which a crane is deployed. High visibility clothing is not just for occasional reduced visibility conditions; it is there to make you highly visible at all times.

Operators who are responsible for working from significant heights, such as those who work within the cab of a lattice crane or those involved in the construction of vertical high rises, should be employing the necessary safety harnesses or fall protection gear.

Nathan Gladwin is the business development manager for Harold Potter, based in the United Kingdom. Harold Potter supply cranes, overhead cranes and lifting equipment to the construction and manufacturing industries.

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