Crane accidents are thankfully fairly rare; however, when an accident does occur it often results in fatal or very serious injuries. In recent years the number of deaths caused by cranes in the UK has averaged one per year.
Overhead lifting is a common workplace activity but the potential risks are often overlooked. Accident reports highlight the deaths and serious injuries that can occur when things go wrong but there can also be major economic costs and serious disruption to manufacturing output.
Ensuring that lifting equipment is fit for purpose is a vital element of any programme aiming to achieve high standards of health and safety; LOLER specifies the need to carry out a thorough examination of overhead cranes at least once every twelve months, which does help towards achieving that goal. It is important however not to rely solely on this one snapshot in time; companies should also complete regular visual checks throughout the intervening period.
Overhead cranes can be subjected to immense forces, in testing environments; and component parts such as hoists and cables will see inevitable wear and tear over time; especially when exposed to extreme heat, chemicals and/or the risk of corrosion. Equipment failure can have very serious consequences not just for the load, but also for any plant, building structures or personnel in the surrounding area.
It is estimated that 70% of all overhead crane incidents could have been avoided by providing proper training, and that a further 9% could have been avoided with better maintenance programmes.
Around a quarter of all crane incidents involve a dropped load, an estimated 60% of which could be attributed to poor crane maintenance and 15% to the failure of wire ropes/cables.
Assuming the risk of deterioration is an ongoing inevitability, the importance of pre-use checks to identify any day-to-day damage or faults cannot be underestimated. It would be madness to rely purely on a 12 month inspection programme. The Good to Go Safety system is flexible, allowing pre-shift start, daily, weekly, monthly or annual checks to be implemented – every site is likely to have differing requirements and the Good to Go system can be adopted to suit those needs. Written records of completed inspections are retained as part of an audit trail, and any equipment that fails an inspection can be withdrawn from service for repair or disposal with a “Do Not Use” message displayed in the tag for all to see.