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Cranes and Rigging



Moving large, heavy loads is crucial to today's manufacturing and construction industries. Much technology has been developed for these operations, including careful training and extensive workplace precautions. There are significant safety issues to be considered, both for the operators of the diverse "lifting" devices, and for workers in proximity to them.

Hazards in Crane Operations and Rigging

Significant and serious injuries may occur if cranes are not inspected before use and if they are not used properly. Often these injuries occur when a worker is struck by an overhead load or caught within the crane's swing radius. Many crane fatalities occur when the boom of a crane or its load line contact an overhead power line.

Safety Precautions and Best Practices


Recommended safety precautions and best practices to protect employees from the hazards associated with operating cranes and derricks include:

Before operation

  • Check all crane controls to insure proper operation before use.
  • Inspect wire rope, chains and hook for any damage.
  • Know the weight of the load that the crane is to lift.
  • Ensure that the load does not exceed the crane's rated capacity.
  • Fully extend outriggers.
  • Barricade accessible areas within the crane's swing radius.
  • Check all rigging prior to use.
  • Do not wrap hoist ropes or chains around the load.
  • A competent person must inspect slings and all fastenings and attachments for damage or defects.
  • Verify cranes and derricks will not be operating within 10 feet of any electrical power line.
  • Post illustrations of hand signals to crane and derrick operators on the job site.
  • Test and correctly set overload limits.
  • Perform and maintain initial and annual inspections of all hoisting and rigging equipment.

During operation

Swing Radius
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  • Raise the load a few inches to verify balance and the effectiveness of the brake system.
  • Do not move a load over workers.
  • Watch for overhead electrical distribution and transmission lines and maintain a safe working clearance of at least 10 feet from energized electrical lines.
  • Provide an electrical ground to the upper rotating structure supporting the boom and materials being handled while working near energized transmitter towers.
  • Barricade accessible areas within the crane’s swing radius.
  • Use tag lines to prevent dangerous swing or spin of materials when raised or lowered by a crane or derrick.
  • Make load testing reports/certifications available.

Operators and Signal Persons

The employer should make sure only properly trained and qualified operators and signal persons work with hoisting and rigging equipment. Operators and signal persons must understand and use appropriate load charts and follow manufacturers procedures for operating cranes. Operators must be able to correctly determine the angle and length of the crane boom at all times. Signal persons must be able to use correct signals for the crane operator to follow. Operators and signal persons should do the following:

  • Keep the operator’s manual and all procedures for operating the crane (such as load charts, recommended operating speeds, and hazard warnings) in the cab and readily available.
  • Make sure the operator can determine the angle and length of the crane boom at all times.
  • Ensure the signal person uses correct signals for the crane operator to follow.
  • Don’t do anything distracting, such as texting or talking on a mobile phone, while operating the crane.
  • Don’t leave the controls while the load is suspended.
  • Before starting the engine, verify that all controls are in the proper position and workers are in the clear.
  • If crane adjustments or repairs are necessary, inform, in writing, the person responsible for receiving the information and the operator on the next shift.
  • swing
    Operator and Signal Person working together
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  • Don’t operate a crane beyond its rated capacity.
  • Don’t use a crane to drag or pull loads sideways.
  • Don’t let the boom and any other parts of a crane contact an obstruction.
  • Don’t lift loads over the front area of wheel-mounted cranes unless the manufacturer permits it.
  • When handling a load that is 90 percent or more of the maximum line pull, test the brakes by lifting the load a few inches and applying the brakes; repetitive lifts of such loads need to be tested only the first time.
  • Don’t lower the load or the boom below the point where fewer than two full wraps of rope remain on their respective drums.
  • Control the crane’s rotational speed so that the load doesn’t swing out beyond the radius.

Refusing to handle loads. A crane operator concerned about hazards involving a crane can refuse to handle loads until a qualified person determines there isn’t a hazard or the hazard has been corrected.

Stopping multiple-crane lifts. The crane operator and the lift director have the authority to stop a multiple-crane lift if either determines the lift can’t be done according to the lift plan.


  • Make sure cranes are equipped with a load chart.
  • Inspect crane machinery and other rigging equipment daily prior to use to make sure that it is in good condition.
  • Extend crane outriggers when required.
  • Ensure crane platforms and walkways have anti-skid surfaces.
  • Remove all broken, worn or damaged wire rope from service.
  • Provide guardrails, hand holds and steps for safe and easy access to and from all areas of the crane.
  • Properly torgue tower crane mast bolts to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Post the maximum acceptable load and the last test results on the crane.
  • Inspect rigging equipment for material handling before use on each shift and whenever necessary during its use to ensure that it is safe.
  • inspections
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  • Remove defective rigging equipment from service.
  • Do not load rigging equipment in excess of its recommended safe working load.
  • Remove rigging equipment, when not in use, from the immediate work area so as not to present a hazard to employees.
  • Mark custom-designed grabs, hooks, clamps, or other lifting accessories, for units such as modular panels, prefabricated structures, and similar materials, to indicate the safe working loads.
  • Proof-test grabs, hooks, clamps, or other lifting accessories prior to use to 125 percent of their rated load. Included are alloy steel chain, wire rope, metal mesh, natural or synthetic fiber rope (conventional three strand construction), and synthetic web (nylon, polyester, and polypropylene).
For more information on all types of rigging equipment visit the Lift-It website. For more information on crane and derrick rigging see OSHAcademy Course 820, Crane and Derrick Safety I.

Program and Training

  • Ensure written safety procedures are required and provided for the safe operation of all cranes used in construction.
  • Ensure employees who operate cranes are properly trained, have sufficient practical experience, and follow operating procedures for the safe operation of the crane.
  • Document the level of operator training and experience in writing.
  • Provide additional training and experience for all employees engaged in construction work who operate cranes of five-ton capacity or greater, and make sure they possess a valid crane operator’s safety training card issued by a training provider or employer.

Crane Operator Certification

crane certification

OSHA requires employers to ensure that their crane operators are certified under at least one of four options listed below.

The third-party certification option is the only certification option that is "portable," meaning that any employer who employs an operator may rely on that operator's certification as evidence of compliance with the cranes standard's operator certification requirement.

The four options are:

  1. certification by an independent testing organization accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting organization
  2. qualification by an employer's independently audited program
  3. qualification by the U.S. military
  4. compliance with qualifying state or local licensing requirements

For more information on crane safety be sure to take OSHAcademy Course 820, Crane and Derrick Safety I, and Course 821, Crane and Derrick Safety II.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. When hoisting a load, make sure you do NOT _____.

2. What should be used to prevent dangerous swing or spin of materials when raised or lowered by a crane or derrick?

3. The crane operator must be able to _____ at all times.

4. Prior to hoisting operations, be sure to proof-test grabs, hooks, clamps, or other lifting accessories to _____.

5. _____ is the only crane operator certification option that is considered "portable".

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.