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Unique Safety Hazards of Overhead and Gantry Cranes

Overhead cranes, including gantry cranes, are essential in many manufacturing, maintenance and industrial work environments when efficiency is required for lifting and moving heavy loads. Crane operators, riggers and employees that work near overhead cranes need to be aware of the unique hazards of these large machines.

Caught-in/Between, Struck-by/Against, Crane Overloading and Falling Materials are the most common industrial overhead crane hazards.

OSHA General Industry Standard 1910 Subpart N covers Materials Handling and Storage - Overhead and Gantry Cranes.

To ensure everyone stays safe when cranes are in operation, only trained and authorized workers should be allowed to operate any overhead crane.

Employees who work in the vicinity of the overhead crane must be trained in workplace general safety awareness to ensure all safety precautions are taken during the course of the work day to keep all workers safe.

Visitors should not be allowed near overhead cranes when they are in use.

Overhead Cranes in Use
OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.179(b)(8) Only designated personnel shall be permitted to operate a crane covered by this section.

Perform a basic crane inspection at the beginning of every shift or before using the crane for the first time each work day. At minimum, look for the following:

  • Survey the area around the crane and check for leaking fluids and trip hazards
  • Ensure guards are in place and working as intended
  • Inspect the wire rope for damage or distortions
  • Inspect the drum for proper rope alignment
  • Inspect the block and hook for cracks or damage
  • Inspect the bumpers for damage
  • Test the limit switches for proper functionality

If any defects or issues are found during any inspection do not operate the crane and report immediately.

A crane inspection process should be implemented to document a more comprehensive periodic check of all cranes with written records maintained.

Crane operation and safety training held on-site for employees.
Crane operation and safety training held on-site for employees.

All crane operators, riggers and employees who work in the area where overhead cranes are in operation must wear the appropriate PPE, such as hard hats, safety glasses, work gloves and hard-toe boots.

The hoist operator and rigger should be trained in common crane operation hand signals, especially if there could ever be a situation when voice communications cannot be heard.

It is important that crane operators and riggers know the load rate. Load markings should be posted on the crane and hoist block. Before the lift, verify that the load is not heavier than the maximum load capacity.

Hoist operators and riggers should not engage in any other behavior while operating the crane that will divert their attention from the lift.

OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.179(n)(1) Size of load. The crane shall not be loaded beyond its rated load.

Do not attempt to perform maintenance or repairs on any crane unless you have been trained.

Before any maintenance is performed on a crane, follow lockout/tagout procedures.

  • Do not operate any overhead crane that has been tagged out or marked as ‘do not operate’.
  • Do not operate any crane if the controls are malfunctioning.
  • Controls should not be left unattended while any load is suspended. If it is necessary to leave the controls, for any reason, lower the load first.
OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.179(n)(3)(x) The employer shall insure that the operator does not leave his position at the controls while the load is suspended.
  • Do not allow any personnel to ride on any load being lifted by a crane or on the crane hook itself.
  • Never carry loads over people. Use audible and/or visual warning devices to alert workers in the area so they have the opportunity to move out from under the load.
  • Never walk under a loaded crane during a lift.
  • There should never be any sudden acceleration or deceleration of the load during the lift. Move crane controls slowly and avoid any abrupt or jerky movements of the load.
  • Before lifting, be sure that all loose materials and parts have been removed from the load.

If overhead or gantry cranes are used in your shop, warehouse or workplace, then make sure you don't skip the safety meeting! All employees who work in the area should be familiar with the unique hazards associated with industrial overhead cranes and the safe work practices expected.

Overhead crane in an industrial environment.

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