OSHA Guide – Cranes and Derricks in Construction

Section 1419-1422 – Signals

A crane operator often needs a second set of eyes, in the form of a signal person, to be able to operate safely. These sections state when a signal person must be provided and the types of signals that are allowed. The qualifications the signal person must possess are specified in section 1428 (signal person qualifications).

When a Signal Person is Needed

In each of the following situations, a signal person must be provided:

  • When the point of operation, meaning the path the load travels or the area where the load is placed, is not in full view of the operator
  • When the equipment is traveling and the operator’s view in the direction of travel is obstructed
  • When, due to site-specific safety concerns, either the operator or the person handling the load determines that it is necessary

During operations requiring signals, the ability to transmit signals between the operator and signal person must be maintained. If that ability is interrupted at any time, the operator must safely stop operations until signal transmission is reestablished and a proper signal is given and understood.

Only one person may give signals to a crane/derrick at a time, except that any person may give an emergency stop signal.

Types of Signals

Hand, voice, audible, or new signals are allowed. The type of signals used and means of transmitting the signals to the operator (such as direct line of sight, video, radio, etc.), must be appropriate for the site conditions. All directions given to the operator by the signal person must be given from the operator’s perspective.

Hand Signals

When using hand signals, the Standard Method must be used. Exception: Where an operation or use of an attachment is not covered in the Standard Method or the use of the Standard Method is otherwise infeasible, non-standard hand signals may be used. When using non-standard hand signals, the signal person, operator, and lift director (where there is one) must contact each other prior to the operation and agree on the non-standard hand signals that will be used. Hand signal charts must be either posted on the equipment or conspicuously posted in the vicinity of the hoisting operation.

Voice Signals

These are signals given by oral communication, with or without amplification or electronic transmission. If this type of signal is used, the operator, signal person, and lift director (if there is one) must, before beginning operations, contact each other and agree on the voice signals that will be used. In most cases where voice signals are given, some type of electronic transmission and reception will be used. When this is the case:

  • The device(s) used to transmit signals must be tested on site before beginning operations to ensure that the signal transmission is effective, clear, and reliable
  • Signal transmission must be through a dedicated channel, except:
    • Multiple cranes/derricks and one or more signal persons may share a dedicated channel for the purpose of coordinating operations
    • Where a crane is being operated on or adjacent to railroad tracks, and the actions of the crane operator need to be coordinated with the movement of other equipment or trains on the same or adjacent tracks
  • The operator’s reception of signals must be by a hands-free system

Audible Signals

These are signals made by a distinct sound or series of sounds, such as sounds made by a bell, horn, or whistle. As with other type of signals, the signal person and operator must clearly understand the meaning of the signals being used.

New Signals

The standard allows room for development of new signal technology by permitting signals other than hand, voice, or audible signals to be used where the employer demonstrates that:

  • The new signals provide at least equally effective communication as voice, audible, or Standard Method hand signals, or
  • The new signals comply with a national consensus standard that provides at least equally effective communication as voice, audible, or Standard Method hand signals