“Hook ‘er up and let’s get ‘er done! We’ve done this dozen of times before. What could possibly go wrong?”
Those sentences could well become part of a list of famous last words. One thing that never matters is how many times you have hoisted a load like this before. The only thing that matters is how you handle the load this time. The load you are preparing to lift – or are in the process of lifting – is the only load an operator should focus on. It is the only thing – period – the operator should focus on.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Before you even think of asking that question, watch this short, animated video from our friends at EHS. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video indicates that there are thousands of things that could go wrong. No hoisting job is ordinary. No hoisting job should be taken lightly.
The Operator Shall . . .
The phrase “the operator shall . . .” (or a variant of, e.g., “must”) appears no less than 14 times in the 20 paragraphs of Section 6.08 of our Hoisting 1A: Derricks/Lattice Cranes License course based on Massachusetts hoisting regulations. The number of mentions is a direct indicator of the significant responsibilities of a crane operator. It’s not just about lifting loads. It’s about safely lifting them.
Basic operator responsibilities include:
- Maintenance, repair, and refueling of the hoisting equipment
- Daily inspection of all parts of the equipment that is subject to wear and tear. This includes recording and preserving a written and signed daily log sheet of inspections that meet Massachusetts Department of Public Safety standards and is readily available to them upon request.
- Ensuring that the operating area is safe and clear of personnel.
- Testing equipment controls prior to operation to ensure that they are functioning according to manufacturer’s specifications.
- Focusing complete attention on safe operations when lifting or preparing to do so.
- The safety of all operations under his control.
- Responding to the hand signals of assigned, qualified, competent signal persons.
- Securing and landing suspended loads.
- Maintaining load charts and operating manuals in the hoisting equipment.
- Securing equipment when not in use.
The Operator Is . . .
The issue at hand is that the operator is responsible for everything pertaining to safely hoisting the load, from pre-operational inspections and testing to securing the hoisting equipment once the job is complete for the day.
Let’s say that again. The OPERATOR is RESPONSIBLE.
This point cannot be stressed enough. Regardless of who is the senior supervisor on the job, the operator is responsible for the safety of the equipment, the load, the personnel in the area, and the hoisting operation itself. According to Massachusetts 520 CMR,
“When there is any doubt as to the safety of any action, the operator shall have the authority to stop and refuse to handle loads until safety has been assured.”
To “stop and refuse” direct orders from senior personnel would be considered to be insubordination in most work situations. In this situation, however, the laws of the State of Massachusetts are written with the responsibilities of the hoisting equipment operator in mind. The state expects operators to comply with safety regulations regardless of instructions to do otherwise. Therefore, the state also grants the operator “the authority to stop and refuse to handle loads” in unsafe conditions.
Hoisting rules are the confluence of best methods and safest methods. As one source has noted, “Mobile crane operators are a small brotherhood whose main goal is to ensure the safety of those we are working with. Not only are we expected to know the best way to execute the lift, but also the safest way.” That is why Massachusetts requires crane operators to be trained and licensed before taking on a task of nearly incomparable responsibility. Want to learn more? Take our Hoisting License classes for free.