By Brandon Verret, Sparrows Training
A lifting operation should be a well thought-out process – careful planning and assessment are required to ensure it is conducted safely and effectively. Several key components must be taken into consideration before the lift is made. Some of the most crucial questions to ask are:
• Who is responsible for the lift?
• How will the lift be categorized?
• Is the JSA (job safety analysis) complete?
• Has a full risk assessment been conducted?
• Is everyone involved in the lift present at the toolbox talk?
• Does everyone understand the procedures and are they qualified for the task at hand?
• Is the equipment in safe working order and able to cope with the load?
A lift plan does not have a prescriptive format, but there are essential elements that should always be addressed. Gravity obviously plays a crucial role in any lift – what goes up, must come down. How it goes up and comes down depends on how well lift plans are conducted and communicated as a team.
There are two ways to conduct a lift – a controlled manner, helping to reduce risk; or an uncontrolled manner, with the potential to harm people, the environment, equipment and property.
Who is responsible? Whenever this question is posed to individuals, the first answer is always “the crane operator.” Yet it’s important to ask, “What role do I play and how can I help ensure a safe and successful lift?”
For the most part, the crane operator is accountable. However, every person must take responsibility for the part he plays. If anyone feels the lift is unsafe, the job should be stopped immediately. It’s not fair or practical to rely on what one individual may or may not see during the course of a lift. It’s true that someone is always in charge of the lift, and this person should be clearly identified before the operation begins. However, it is everybody’s responsibility to make sure that lifting operations are conducted in the safest manner possible.
How is the lift categorized? Lifts are categorized in several ways, for example, static and dynamic, off board and onboard. The categories can then be broken down further into common, complex, heavy, routine, basic and critical. The list goes on, and the terminology can vary between companies and regions around the world. Yet one thing always remains the same – every lift has an element of risk. Some have the potential to be more dangerous than others, and the degree of risk should be thoroughly evaluated during the risk assessment.
It’s important for everyone involved in a lift operation to familiarize themselves with the terminology and lift categories used by that particular company so that the specifics of the lift category can be determined. Personnel transfers, obstacles in the load path and sea states are examples of factors that determine the category.
If a generic JSA card is used, it should be considered only as a guide. Every lifting operation is different and should be assessed accordingly. It’s vital to ensure that all sections of the JSA are complete and any potential risk or concern is documented. The assessment must be conducted on site to provide a full impression of the surrounding area and potential risk factors, including obstacles, pinch points, trip hazards, sharp objects, etc. Any unnecessary personnel should be kept out of the lift area by using barricades, signs or other devices.
Another factor to consider is what method of communication will be used. For example, if radios will be used, it’s important to check that all radios are fully charged and a secure channel is used.
The planning process should include a search for obscure factors that could potentially come into play and cause risk. It could be something as simple as a light pole. Is it in the load path? What will happen if the lift comes in contact with it? Always ask “what if?”
What about the personnel involved with the lift? Everyone involved in the lift operation must be present and fully attentive when conducting the JSA and toolbox talk. The individual leading this talk should be observant of the crew’s reactions to the procedures being discussed. It’s important to gauge how instructions are being received and ensure that all aspects of the plan are understood and everyone is happy with their designated task. If an individual is confused or uncertain about things that are being discussed, that often can be observed by their facial expressions.
All questions should be addressed, and nobody should walk away with doubts or unanswered questions. Most importantly, everyone must know that it is their responsibility to stop the job if they see a hazard or detect a risk. Everyone should be fully observant of their surroundings, body placement and load path during these operations and must never become complacent.
The integrity of the equipment is another crucial factor. Is the equipment rated for the weight of the load? Have the necessary pre-use inspections been conducted? Pre-use inspections must be undertaken on all equipment no matter how big or small. If anything fails during inspection checks, it must be replaced immediately and re-checked. Before a large lift, it may also be necessary to conduct a heavy-lift inspection for the crane. Guidelines differ, so employees should refer to their company procedure.
Think about how each aspect of a lifting operation affects you and those around you. Follow safe operating practices and the lift plan. If it is an extended lift operation, revisit the lift plan as a reference guide as this will keep it fresh in your mind. If the job scope changes during the lift, stop the job and re-evaluate the lift plan. Never take any lift for granted.
This article is based on a presentation at the IADC Lifting & Mechanical Handling Conference & Exhibition, 13-14 July 2010, Houston.