What Are Roles and Responsibilities During Crane Operations?

Person sitting in cab of construction vehiclePerson sitting in cab of construction vehicle

Operating a crane can be a high-risk activity at a construction site. Beyond the potential for serious injuries or death, a crane accident can impact the project’s budget and schedule. Crane accidents also can harm a construction company’s brand and reputation.

Having a well-trained lift team can help mitigate, and possibly eliminate, some of the hazards associated with using cranes. A safe lift depends on a number of people filling roles including operators, riggers, signal persons, crane owners, crane users, lift directors and site supervisors, and the communication between those people.

“Making sure all members of the team are qualified to do their jobs should be a priority for companies,” says Hank Dutton, a Travelers Risk Control crane safety professional, who was named the 2013 Top Trainer from Crane & Rigging Hotline Magazine.

Training can help companies increase the awareness of risk and job-site safety associated with crane operations. Crane safety specialists can assist companies in educating employees — from the lift director to the operator and even those working nearby.

Understanding the Safety Requirements

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) volume B30.5, which addresses mobile cranes, and B30.3, which addresses tower cranes, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have requirements for personnel involved in lifting operations. Make sure to review both standards to ensure all of the roles mentioned are assigned within your organizational structure during lifting operations.

These standards also define the qualifications for personnel involved in lifting operations. Two commonly used terms for describing these qualifications are “qualified” and “competent” personnel.

A qualified person, according to ASME and OSHA, is “a person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training and experience, successfully demonstrates the ability to solve/resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work or the project.”

A competent person, according to OSHA, is “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

4 Key Roles During Crane Operations

Following is a closer look at some, but not all, of the responsibilities of four key roles identified in ASME B30.5 and B30.3:

Crane Owner

The crane owner is the party with custodial control of the crane and provides the necessary operational and maintenance information to the crane user. Other responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing a crane that meets the user’s requested configuration and capacity.
  • Providing all applicable load rating charts and diagrams and additional technical information when requested by crane user; field assembly/disassembly; operation; maintenance info; and placards and warning decals supplied by the manufacturer.
  • Establishing inspection, testing and maintenance procedures, and informing the crane user.
  • Designating qualified personnel for maintenance, repair, transport, assembly/disassembly and inspections.
  • Maintaining data for the rope currently installed on each drum of the crane.

Crane User

The crane user arranges the crane’s presence at the site and controls the crane while on site, including ensuring only qualified operators who meet ASME’s standard B30.5 requirements operate the crane. The crane user also ensures all members of the lift team are aware of their roles and responsibilities. Other responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring compliance with requirements of the current ASME volume.
  • Ensuring the crane is operating according to manufacturer’s requirements and the worksite regulations.
  • Using only qualified supervisors and operators.
  • Ensuring the crane is in proper operating condition by verifying proper documentation has been received from the crane owner and frequent inspections are performed.
  • Verifying the crane has sufficient capacity to perform the work.
  • Informing crane owner if any rope has been replaced or shortened.

Site Supervisor

The site supervisor exercises supervisory control over the worksite and the work currently being performed. In some cases, the site supervisor and the lift director may be the same person. Other responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring the operator meets requirements of the applicable ASME volume.
  • Ensuring the crane meets inspection requirements prior to initial use.
  • Determining which regulations are applicable to crane operations.
  • Ensuring a qualified lift director is designated, rigging is supervised by a qualified person and maintenance is performed by a designated person.
  • Ensuring crane operations are coordinated with other jobsite activities.
  • Ensuring the area for the crane is adequately prepared, including access roads, sufficient room to assemble/disassemble the crane, ground conditions, proximity to power lines and other hazards and traffic control.
  • Ensuring adverse conditions are addressed, such as poor soil, wind velocity or gusting winds, fog, heavy rain, cold and artificial lighting.
  • Allowing crane operations near power lines only after applicable requirements are met.
  • Permitting special lifting operations, such as multiple crane lifts, only after the applicable procedures are implemented.

Lift Director

The lift director directly oversees the work being performed by the crane and the associated rigging crew. According to ASME B30.5, a lift director must be onsite for all lifting operations.

Responsibilities include:

  • Halting crane operations if alerted to an unsafe condition.
  • Ensuring area preparations are completed before crane operations commence.
  • Ensuring necessary traffic controls are in place.
  • Ensuring workers understand their responsibilities and the associated hazards.
  • Appointing signal people and ensuring they meet the applicable requirements.
  • Allowing crane operations near power lines only when applicable requirements are met.
  • Ensuring precautions are implemented for special lifting operations, such as multiple crane lifts.
  • Ensuring rigging is performed by competent personnel.
  • Ensuring the load is properly rigged and balanced.

In addition, OSHA requires lift directors be both competent and qualified, or a competent person assisted by at least one qualified person, when performing multiple crane lifts.

Travelers is a recognized leader in providing crane safety training and education. Travelers Risk Control crane safety professionals lead several nationally recognized crane programs to advance safety and teach crane safety methods to contractors, operators and safety and management staff. Over the past decade and as part of Travelers continued commitment to the construction industry, Travelers Construction Risk Control professionals have conducted more than 140 sessions and trained over 3,000 workers on crane safety.