Cranes are used to move components that are too heavy to be practical candidates for unaided human transport from place to place. This can be over a small scale of a few feet, to much larger distances. Cranes can range in size from the scale of a tractor to the scale of a skyscraper. They are often operated in environments where construction or manufacturing are occurring, and therefore often transport heavy loads over areas where delicate activity is taking place, including the presence of humans. For this reason, it’s important to make sure cranes are being operated safely and within the recommended guidelines both for liability reasons and for safety reasons.
Cranes therefore need to undergo routine testing to ensure they are operating within safety standards. Damage from acute events or normal wear and tear can stress the machinery, necessitating adjustments or replacements. OSHA guidelines state that cranes need to be inspected at least once a year if they are in active use1.
Initially, cranes must be inspected after they are manufactured and before they are put into use, because the safety stakes are high and errors must be detected early. If a crane is repaired or refurbished, this also triggers the need for an inspection. The operator must also visually inspect the crane before every shift, keeping a close eye for, among other things: “the functional operating mechanisms…deterioration or leakage in lines, tanks, valves, drain pumps and other parts of air or hydraulic systems; hoist chains…for excessive wear, twist, distorted links interfering with proper function… hooks with deformation or cracks.”1 This brief visual scan is intended to catch any acute damage that could affect the crane’s safety during the shift. Additionally, the hoist chains and hooks require a certificate of monthly inspection both for wear and for usage compliant with manufacturer recommendations.
There is a second type of inspection that is based on the usage level of the crane, called “frequent inspection,” and it involves different components that wear at a rate relative to their use1. As stated in Crane Inspections: Why, How and How Often,” such components include the “hoist brake, wire rope, load chain, and… any abnormal sounds.” The recommended interval for performing this inspection varies from daily to monthly based on whether the crane is operating under severe, heavy or normal service1. These terms refer to a combination metric of the loads being carried (relative to the rated maximum load of the crane) and the frequency of use. Finally, “periodic inspections” happen from once to four times a year, again based on service levels of the crane. These check for more subtle signs of wear, like loose joiners and wear on electrical components1.
With so many crane inspections required, it can be tempting to let one or more be neglected. However, in the event of an equipment failure, demonstrating a record of proper maintenance is key for liability reasons. Of course, regular maintenance can also reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring at all.