OSHA Guide – Cranes and Derricks in Construction

Section 1417 – Operation

This section contains a number of requirements that are designed to prevent dangerous conditions during crane operations.

Compliance with Rated Capacity

One of the most serious hazards that cranes present is collapse of the equipment caused by exceeding the crane’s rated capacity. The term “rated capacity” is defined in section 1401, and that definition reads:

Rated capacity means the maximum working load permitted by the manufacturer under specified working conditions. Such working conditions typically include a specific combination of factors such as equipment configuration, radii, boom length, and other parameters of use.

The combination of factors that enter into rated capacity is set forth in a load chart that must be on the equipment. In general, the load chart states the weight of the load that the crane can lift at different boom radii. The longer the radius at which the lift occurs, the smaller amount of weight the crane can lift.

You must not operate a crane in excess of its rated capacity. Some crane users believe they can safely exceed the rated capacity because the manufacturer includes a safety factor in the load chart. However, any safety factor included by the manufacturer is not intended to be treated as excess capacity. It is included because a variety of variable work site conditions, such as swinging of the load caused by wind or other factors, can reduce the capacity of the crane from that which exists under ideal conditions.

To comply with the rated capacity, the weight of the load must be known. Before beginning a lift, you must determine the load weight by a reliable means.

Other Manufacturer Procedures

In addition to complying with the rated capacity, you must comply with all other manufacturer procedures applicable to the operation of the equipment. If the manufacturer’s procedures are unavailable, you must comply with procedures that you develop. Procedures for the operational controls must be developed by a qualified person. Procedures related to the capacity of the equipment must be developed and signed by a registered professional engineer familiar with the equipment.

All procedures applicable to the operation of the equipment, including rated capacities (load charts), recommended operating speeds, special hazard warnings, instructions, and operator’s manual, must be readily available in the cab at all times for use by the operator.

Operation Attention

The operator must not engage in any practice or activity that diverts his/her attention while actually engaged in operating the equipment, such as the use of a cell phone (except when used for signal communications). 

Operator Usually Must Remain at Controls While the Load is Suspended

An exception is provided for working gear (such as slings, spreader bars, ladders, and welding machines) when the weight of the working gear is negligible compared to the capacity of the equipment and the working gear is not over an entrance or exit. Another exception applies when the load is to be held suspended for a period of time exceeding that of normal lifting operations. See section 1417(e) for the conditions that must be met for this exception to apply.

Tagging Out of Service Equipment and Functions

When the equipment is out of service, a tag must be placed in the cab stating that the equipment is out of service and is not to be used. Where a function is out of service, a tag must be placed in a conspicuous position stating that the function is out of service and is not to be used. The equipment or function may not be used until the tag is removed by an authorized person.

Precautions During Startup

Before starting the engine, the operator must verify that all controls are in the proper starting position and that all personnel are in the clear. 

Bad Weather Precautions

When a local storm warning has been issued, the competent person must determine whether it is necessary to implement manufacturer recommendations for securing the equipment. The competent person must adjust the equipment and/or operations to address the effect of wind, ice, and snow on equipment stability and rated capacity. 

Sideloading Prohibited

The equipment must not be used to drag or pull loads sideways. 

Brake Test

The operator must test the brakes each time a load that is 90% or more of the maximum line pull is handled by lifting the load a few inches and applying the brakes. In duty cycle and repetitive lifts where each lift is 90% or more of the maximum line pull, this requirement applies to the first lift but not to successive lifts.

Protection Against Rope Detachment

To prevent rope from becoming detached from a drum, neither the load nor the boom must be lowered below the point where less than two full wraps of rope remain on their respective drums. 

Traveling with Load

Traveling with a load is prohibited if the practice is prohibited by the manufacturer. Where it is not prohibited, you must take precautions to prevent hazardous movement of the load and avoid excessive movement of the load that could overload the crane.