Crane Institute of America

Be Safe with Aerial Lifts

Posted on August 2, 2015 • Comments Off on Be Safe with Aerial Lifts

040a2f456f79ba582dbc1bfb47168c4f57d732d86b57f6bf48acff755b35f652_mIn May a boom lift overturned in New York. The operator suffered a broken wrist as well as facial and rib injuries, but thankfully he was not thrown from the platform and was rescued by the local fire department.

An aerial lift works on the leverage principle, where the weight of the boom at any length should be offset by the counterweight. The unit must be level within the manufacturer’s tolerance, and should have a slope sensor alarm that would sound when that tolerance is exceeded. In this incident the operator drove the lift up onto a slope, which caused it to overturn.

Although aerial lifts look easy to operate and can be rented by anyone, they should only be operated by those who have been properly trained. Often the person delivering the lift is a driver not equipped to provide this training. Never assume you can “just figure it out”!

Crane Institute of America “Does Well by Doing Good”

Posted on July 17, 2015 • 1 Comment

Together Crane team links with Feeding Children Everywhere to pack meals to help feed the world’s hungry

IMG_5390TC03lowJuly 17, 2015 (Sanford, Fla.) – Celebrating the Fourth of July holiday week this year was more meaningful than ever for the Crane Institute of America team.  On June 30, 2015, the team of training specialists and corporate office staff worked side-by-side at a meal-packing event with Feeding Children Everywhere, a hunger relief organization located in Central Florida.

The meal-packing event, sponsored by Crane Institute of America, took place during the first day of their annual in-service training. As the 30-member-strong Crane team donned green hairnets (required in order to keep the food uncontaminated), Feeding Children Everywhere leader, Marcus Mennenga, offered a brief orientation to the group, thanked them for participating and shared some startling statistics. “The good news is that the world produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet,” said Mennenga.  “The bad news?  Some 16,000 children die every day from starvation. This is a very big problem and by what you are doing today, you’re chipping away at it.”

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The Crane Institute team was divided into two groups with each assembling packages of nutritious meals at record-breaking speed. Two long rows of tables covered with bins of rice, lentils, pink Himalayan salt and dehydrated vegetables were surrounded by the energetic teams, who egged each other on in a spirit of good-natured competition as they scooped and bagged the meals.

By the time all was said and done, Crane Institute’s team had assembled enough meals to feed 5,184 of the world’s hungry people.  And they did it in record time!  They packed with such efficiency that what normally takes nearly two hours took only 45 minutes!  Working together as a team, they contributed toward the important cause of alleviating world hunger by providing five children with three healthy meals per day for year.

And the Crane Institute team loved every minute of it.

“I thought it was a fantastic thing.  We had a little competition going to see who could pack meals the fastest, which made it even more fun,” said Crane Institute training specialist Kenny Adams.  He added, “It was a great time for all the employees doing something together that we knew would be beneficial to kids around the world.”  Another staff member agrees.  “Who knew helping others could be so much fun!  It was a great experience and truly humbling, especially when I realized one meal packet can feed six people.

For Crane Institute, what is commonly referred to as good “corporate citizenship” isn’t a contrived program intended to make the company look good.  Giving is a deeply held value.  Jim Headley, CEO and his wife Susan, CFO started the company in1987 and the business has steadily prospered for nearly 30 years. The company continues to do very well and for that, they are very grateful.  Participating in charitable causes on a regular basis is simply an expression of that gratitude according to this husband and wife team.

“As business owners, we give because we have been blessed and believe that sharing that blessing with others is the right thing to do,” said Jim Headley.  “Whether or not it helps the company’s bottom line is incidental.   And by doing so, we are creating a culture in which our team knows that it’s the norm for us to give as a company. It’s incredibly satisfying to see them get so engaged in the process of giving, and I think it means a lot to them that we do this together as a team.“

Since 1987 Crane Institute of America, Sanford, Fla., has offered training for operators, inspectors, safety managers, lift directors, riggers and signalpersons working with mobile cranes, overhead cranes, tower cranes, aerial lift and forklifts. It is an authorized CIC written and practical exam testing site. For information, visit

Sling Deterioration

Posted on July 6, 2015 • 1 Comment

LiftingTackle_FibreSlings_RoundSlingA sling is a tool, designed to do certain things well. There is no perfect sling that will do every lifting job well (if there was we would only need one type!). But for many riggers their “one” would be synthetic, which will outlift others pound-for-pound. However, in addition to the obvious melting and cutting because they are plastic, they have a shelf life.

All plastic starts deteriorating from the moment it is manufactured. This deterioration can be accelerated by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays (these come mostly from the sun but also from industrial gas lighting). In online discussions it has been raised as a big concern but it may only be a concern because we don’t know the rate of deterioration.

sling-careSlings, like most things in the crane industry, are rated to a fraction of their breaking strength. Slings have a 5:1 design factor, which means the rated capacity on the tag is 20% of the breaking strength. That is, the sling could deteriorate by 80% and still not fail as long as it was not overloaded. The problem is, we don’t know how much they have deteriorated.

The takeaway: Protect synthetic slings from the sun and other sources of UV rays, acids, and other caustic materials!

Albeit a Big One, It’s Still Just a Boom Truck

Posted on July 6, 2015 • Comments Off on Albeit a Big One, It’s Still Just a Boom Truck


In May Cranes & Access reported that a boom truck overturned in New Jersey.

It appears to have been caused by all the wrong conditions: the crane was

  • In the grass
  • Near power lines
  • Boom over the front
  • 0% outriggers

Even if there are load charts for partially set outriggers (0 or 50%), if there is enough room always use 100% outrigger setting. The boom is in the front area of operation, and the front stabilizer does not appear to be down as is normally required. All cranes have to be set up on firm, level ground, even if the ground has to be improved to meet the crane manufacturer’s requirements!

In addition, the operator should have stayed with the crane, because normally they are not able to jump fast or far enough and end up under the crane instead of relatively safe in the cab. Thankfully in this incident the operator was not injured.

Mistakes, Accidents, or Incidents?

Posted on June 15, 2015 • Comments Off on Mistakes, Accidents, or Incidents?

Recently Heavy Lift News published the editorial Those Who Fail to Learn the Lessons of History Are Doomed to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past.

We are not sure you can call them mistakes, and we sure can’t call them accidents. Cranes don’t turn themselves over or poke their booms into power lines… operators do, time and time again all over the world.

Under job pressure, crane operators are free to make choices–good ones and bad. Cranes are de-rated for safety at a rate beyond any other tool or equipment, and well-intentioned trainers may give operators information about the de-rating that can be misused. Operators get used to exceeding the limits and getting away with it, until one day a combination of things comes together and the incident occurs.


The crane in this picture is working in the most stable area of operation for its type; it does not look like there is a problem with soft ground. The root cause appears to be overloading– which with a crane computer or LMI would be difficult, unless they were disabled.

What Really Happened?

Posted on June 3, 2015 • Comments Off on What Really Happened?

outrigger damages cars UKHeavy Lift News reported on an incident in the UK where an all-terrain crane’s outrigger damaged three cars.

There are two sides to every story: the factual one, and the side of the person who did something wrong or made a mistake and won’t admit it.

It looks like a case in point here: this crane outrigger beam was likely extended before the operator tried to drive the crane. When resources are scarce, operators may get in a hurry or cut a corner to try to get the job done on time.

The right rear is the “blind side” outrigger. Given a choice, most operators will use a signalperson to extend and retract it, but because of cost on many jobs there is no signalperson. If that is the case, the operator should get out of the cab and check the outrigger him/herself.

To operate an outrigger, two out of five switches must be depressed at the same time. The operator contended that the outrigger beam came out by itself, but this would require simultaneous failure of the exact two switches for the right rear outrigger–an extremely unlikely event.

Instead, we surmise that the operator tried to rely on the sound of the hydraulic system and the sound the beam makes when it is fully retracted… and didn’t realize the “blind side” outrigger was still out until it had done serious damage. Thankfully in this incident no person was injured.

OSHA’s Update on Operator Certification

Posted on May 28, 2015 • Comments Off on OSHA’s Update on Operator Certification

DOL Bldg DC w- creditMost of you who read this will be familiar with the draft proposed recently by OSHA regarding crane operator qualification which would replace the original wording of the 1926 (subpart CC) section 1427. This is the section where the operator certification and qualification requirements are covered. You can go to to read the entire proposed draft.

In a nutshell, the draft was a rewrite of what qualifies and/or certifies an equipment operator, which includes a variety of crane types. In particular, the draft as written would require an extensive annual evaluation of the operator and require that the operator attend a very strenuous training program. The ‘proposed draft’ changed the current wording which states that operators are to be “certified by type and capacity of equipment” to “operators are to be certified by type of equipment.”

As you might expect, there was an adverse reaction to this proposed draft, especially by employers of crane and equipment operators, since an annual evaluation of each operator would be extremely time-consuming and costly. Personally, I was not surprised by this proposed draft. I knew change was coming when OSHA extended the operator certification date because of the opposition of certain groups over operators having to be certified by type and capacity. Also, it was pretty obvious that OSHA had given serious thought to the subject of cranes, particularly to personnel who operate them, that certification did not equal qualification and there should be a greater emphasis on operator training, assessment and evaluation.

OSHA scheduled an ACCSH (Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health) meeting on March 2, to discuss the proposed draft. ACCSH is a 15-member advisory body that provides advice and assistance in construction and policy matters to the assistant secretary. ACCSH meetings are open to the public and are announced in the Federal Register. As you would expect, the room was full. CIC was represented by Tony Brown, Jeff Dudley, Pete Walsh and myself. Tony and I signed up to be speakers. When it came our time to speak, Tony and I both recommended to the ACCSH committee that the language requiring operators to be certified by type and capacity should remain in the regulation. We made this recommendation based on the following reasoning: half of the four accredited certification organizations (NCCER and CIC) developed their certification programs by type and capacity because OSHA said that would be the requirement. It just would not be fair to these organizations to change the original requirement for certification which was by type and capacity and force them to change their programs. That would not only be unfair, it defies common sense!

Tony and I both understand there are operators that have certifications which are based on type only. Requiring them to be certified by type and capacity would cause them to be disenfranchised. Therefore, we recommended to the ACCSH committee that not only should type and capacity be left in the regulation, but the regulation should also allow operators to be certified by type. The standard would ultimately read that operators of equipment be certified by type and capacity or by type. We felt like this would satisfy all of the certification organizations and would be fair to all of them as well.

The next day, the ACCSH committee recommended by motion several things to OSHA. First, that OSHA needs to rework the operator evaluation and re-evaluation language and that type and capacity be put back into the rewrite of 1427. This would result in operators having the choice of being certified by type and capacity or by type only. ACCSH also recommended that OSHA clarify whether a trainer be certified or certified and qualified and that OSHA develop some reasonable definition of who the controlling contractor would be on the job site.

I’ve always been a little skeptical of OSHA and its control in the workplace. However, after attending the ACCSH meeting I have a lot more respect for OSHA and what it does to protect workers. I was also very pleased with the meeting and have great admiration for the members of the ACCSH committee. Some of these members might not have even known what a crane was when the meeting first started, but they came up to speed very quickly and were very astute to the issues being presented. They made appropriate motions and recommendations to OSHA regarding the most important points of the proposed draft.

So this is what we can be assured of: OSHA is going to require that operators be evaluated on a periodic basis with signed documentation by an evaluator. There will be more stringent training requirements which will have to be documented along with the periodic evaluations. In other words, people will have to attend more of a professional type training program which covers the topics outlined in the proposed draft. It was also expressed that OSHA would like to get all of this done by year’s end. So now we just have to wait for OSHA to do their work and present another rewrite of what was previously proposed. It will then have to go through the process and hopefully by year’s end all of this can be done and this certification issue can be put to bed, and the industry can move forward in a direction that would help more men and women go home safely at the end of the work day.

James Headley
President & CEO
Crane Institute of America, LLC.

Pick and Carry Sounds Good in Theory

Posted on May 25, 2015 • Comments Off on Pick and Carry Sounds Good in Theory

LichtensteinCranes & Access reported on a crane overturn in Lichtenstein, Germany in March. The crane was traveling close to the embankment of a stream when the swinging load (a large concrete panel) caused the crane to overturn.

Some cranes can lift without having the outriggers set, and some can travel on tires with a load suspended. Pick and carry sounds good in theory, but the ground through the route of travel must be firm enough to support the weight of the crane and load–meaning the ground through the route of travel must be level within 1% grade. Obviously, the ground this crane was traveling on was neither firm nor level enough.

From the photos it looks like the outrigger beams may have been extended on the embankment side of the road. This is an old trick sometimes used by operators to try to keep the crane from turning over while doing something improper. The load was reported to be swinging, meaning the road was not level and the load was not secured to the front of the crane as required.

This shows how easily things can go awry when proper safety protocols are not observed, even on “simple” everyday lifts. Fortunately in this instance the operator was not hurt, and firefighters’ quick response prevented contamination of the stream.

Avoidable Deaths: The Rest of the Story

Posted on March 16, 2015 • 1 Comment

Disney Construction crane accident - photo by Melody Gutierrez of SFGateTwo workers were killed in Winters, California when the personnel basket they were in fell 80 feet. Cal OSHA cited Disney Construction for $106,100 after finding that

  • The cranes involved were not properly inspected
  • Workers were not trained
  • They did not have to use a suspended personnel platform (an aerial lift could have been used to place workers at work location)
  • No trial lift or load tests were performed on the basket
  • The safety latch on the crane hook did not close and lock

The wire rope used to raise and lower a drill (Kelly Line) failed and was pulled up to the crane boom head. The line had to be pulled down so it could be reattached to the drill. The line was so severely damaged that pulling it down jammed the boom tip sheave, causing the hook block holding the personnel basket to tilt. This allowed the master link on the bridle sling supporting the basket to slide off the hook because the hook safety latch was defective… and two men regrettably fell to their deaths.

Common Tools Require Training Too

Posted on March 9, 2015 • 1 Comment

pallet jackPallet jacks are a common tool for moving palletized material. They are inexpensive and easy to operate. Therein lies the danger: there is often a direct relationship between the perception that material handling equipment is easy to operate and their involvement in incidents.

If an object is too heavy to lift by hand and an overhead hoist, crane, forklift, or pallet jack is used to lift it, a safety hazard is created. The load is heavy; maneuvering it creates dynamic forces that are not always obvious. Manually-propelled pallet jacks have no brakes; if a heavy load is moving it will take some time to stop it using only body weight. During this time the load will have traveled some distance and can trap an operator against an object. The load can also turn over when making a quick turn due to centrifugal force.

The person in this video had no idea what he was doing. He never lowered the lift gate to the floor (which is why it is there). The lift gate raises and lowers loads to and from the truck bed. Once the load was pulled off the edge of the lift gate, he should have let go of the pallet jack handle. There was literally no physical way he was going to be able to stop the load from falling. We hope this person suffered no serious injuries from this incident.