Debunking the Most Common Construction Crane Myths That Exist Today

Juliet D'cruz

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In 2019, a total of 5,333 reports of fatal work injuries occurred in the United States. Of these, 1,061 cases occurred in the construction industry. That means one in every five workers who died that year worked in construction.

Many injurious and deadly work construction accidents, in turn, have to do with cranes. For instance, construction crane accidents from 2011 to 2017 led to 297 fatalities. Getting struck by falling crane loads and the equipment itself were among the top causes.

One reason cranes continue to cause injuries and deaths is their improper use. Oftentimes, incorrect equipment operation results from misconceptions about cranes and their safety.

To that end, we decided to create this guide busting the most common crane myths once and for all. So, read on to discover what they are and the truth behind crane and construction safety.

Operators Can Lift or Drag Loads Sideways


Granted, cranes do have the ability to pick up or drag objects on their sides. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prohibits operators from doing so. This prohibition, filed under standard number 1926.1417(q), has been in place since 1971.

That’s because the safest way to use construction cranes is to pick up loads right below them. By contrast, horizontal or side-pulls put more stress on the crane’s rope, rope guide, and rope drum. This extra stress can then result in the load swinging from side to side.

Now, imagine if that load weighs 10 metric tons, and it swings and hits a wall or another object. The damage it can do can be similar to that of four average-sized wrecking balls weighing 5,000 pounds (2.5 tons) each.

The damages and losses could be much worse if other people are near the sides of the swinging crane. Moreover, the force from the unstable load can also cause the equipment itself to tip over to its side. This can then lead to even more damage or threaten the operator’s and other people’s lives.

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It’s Fine to Go a Little over the Crane’s Load Limit

False. In fact, a load that exceeds 75% of the crane’s rated capacity already classifies as a critical lift. A critical lift, in turn, can pose significant losses or dangers due to dropping or collisions.

As such, regular activities must involve loads weighing 75% or less than the crane’s load limit.

For example, suppose a construction crane’s maximum load capacity is 18 metric tons. In this case, a non-critical lifting activity shouldn’t exceed 13.5 metric tons. Any more than that, and the risk of accidents, such as a boom or load collapse, increases.

For that reason, operators must know the weight of a load they’re about to lift.

The good news is that many cranes now come with load indicating and digital weighing systems. According to this LOGLIFT forestry crane guide, these systems can help prevent overloading. As a result, the cranes can lift or move the highest possible loads not exceeding the safe range.

Anyone Who Knows How to Operate a Crane Can Do So

False. Only certified crane operators can and must operate cranes. Moreover, they either need certification by type or by type and capacity.

All those are part of the Final Rule that OSHA implemented since November 10, 2018. Under this rule, the certifications may only come from accredited certifying bodies. One of these is the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.

Only the Area Under a Hoisted Load Is Unsafe

This is one of the most common crane safety misconceptions that concern fall zones. By OSHA’s definition, a fall zone is an area where suspended materials could drop in case of an accident. In cranes, the fall zone includes but is not limited to the area right below the load.

For that reason, it’s a must to regard the area around the fall zone to be a risk zone, too. After all, when something of significant weight falls, it could burst or explode in impact. That could then result in the dropped object sending projectiles every which way.

It’s Okay to Keep Moving Until the Crane’s Limit Switches Trip

No, it’s not.

For starters, triggering limit switches causes the crane to stop moving automatically. This can then delay operations and cause significant downtimes.

As a result, construction contractors may fail to finish a job on time. This can lead to them losing their clients and tarnishing their reputation. Worse, they may even face legal consequences for failure to meet the terms of their contract.

Most importantly, limit switches that trip all the time are more likely to suffer early wear and tear. This can then make them fail, and if that happens, the crane gets robbed of essential safety devices. Keep in mind that limit switches exist to stop a crane from moving beyond its capacities.

For example, the job of a hook height limit switch is to stop the hoist drum. It does so whenever the load hook reaches a predetermined maximum safe height.

So, if the hook height limit switch fails, the operator may keep lifting beyond the safe height. This can happen because the failed switch won’t go off, so the hook won’t stop moving higher, either. The more the hook exceeds the height limit, the more likely the rope will snap.

If that happens, the load will drop, and the farther it is from the ground, the greater the force of impact. This can then lead to significant property damage, or worse, injuries and deaths.

Proper Construction Crane Use Is Essential to Worker Safety

Now, you know that cranes must never move sideways, nor should operators overload them. You’re now also aware that only a certified operator can operate a construction crane.

So, as early as today, start using and spreading this newfound knowledge. This way, you can help others stay safe when using cranes or working near them.

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