What Are Roles and Responsibilities During Crane Operations?

5 minutes

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 result in significant property damage and 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 risks associated with using cranes. Performing a safe lift requires several roles with specific responsibilities. Crane lift roles include operators, riggers, signal persons, crane owners, crane users and lift directors. Clear and effective communications between those roles is essential.

Be sure all members of the team are qualified to do their jobs. This is a priority. Training can help increase the awareness of risk associated with crane operations and job site safety of 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 (mobile cranes) and B30.3 (tower cranes) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have various standards for personnel involved in lifting operations. Be sure to review these standards before starting lifting operations and ensure the critical roles above 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.”

qualified person, according to OSHA 1926.1401, 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.”

competent person, according to OSHA 1926.1401, 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

ASME defines the “crane owner” as the party with custodial control of the crane and that 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

ASME defines the “crane user” as the party that arranges the crane’s presence at the site and controls the crane while on-site, including ensuring that only qualified operators who meet ASME B30.5 requirements operate the crane. The crane user also ensures that 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 is described by ASME as the party that 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 job site 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 is described by ASME as the party that directly oversees the work being performed by the crane and the associated rigging crew. According to ASME B30.5, a lift director must be on-site 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 to be both competent and qualified, or a competent person assisted by at least one qualified person, when performing multiple crane lifts.

Learn more about Travelers' crane safety training program here.

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 contractor personnel, including operators, safety personnel and management staff. Over the past two decades and as part of Travelers' continued commitment to the construction industry, Travelers Construction Risk Control professionals have conducted more than 400 sessions and trained over 15,000 workers on crane safety.

Construction workers on crane site reviewing OSHA standards.

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