Ontivity Resources


New Braunfels, TX, June 12, 2024


Cranes are one of the most versatile, powerful and important pieces of construction equipment that we use on a day-to-day basis, and they are also one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment you will encounter on one of our projects.  According to research published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA, an average of 40 construction workers dies each year on the job from crane accidents, Employees working with and around cranes need to understand the hazards, and potential for serious accidents that are associated with the suspended loads that cranes often carry.  A few of the hazards associated with crane work can include but are not limited to striking injuries from moving equipment or dropped loads, crushing or caught between injuries from moving equipment into place and electrocution from contact with overhead power lines.  Like many safety topics, crane safety is a broad topic that would require a multi-day course to cover every detail.  Today we will focus on just 3 of the many potential topics related to safe crane operations.  Those 3 topics are:

  • Establish a communication plan before working with a crane
  • Ensure that you setup the proper barricades when using cranes
  • Never violate the minimum approach distance to power lines


Crane operations are sometimes complex and can be risky if not executed property. Therefore, it requires high levels of coordination and communication among workers. Effective communication can prevent accidents, improve efficiency, and ensure compliance with safety standards and regulations.   A clear communication plan should be in place between the crane operator and other workers on the site before any crane activity starts. This can include hand signals, radios, or other communication devices.  For tasks that require real-time updates and coordination, two-way radios play a crucial role and are considered a first choice.  Now we all know that our friend Murphy always likes to show up when we least expect, so having a pre-planned secondary method of communication in cases where the primary method fails is something to work out before operations start and critical to safe operations.  Do not allow any crane activity to start if a communication plan is not clearly defined and communicated to all on-site. 


This topic is one that is regularly overlooked and commonly missed during crane operations.  OSHA has clear requirements.  OSHA requires a barricade in accessible areas when the swing radius of the rear of the rotating structure of the crane, either permanently or temporarily mounted, may cause an employee to be crushed between other objects and the rear of the crane or any portion of the crane carriage, regardless of whether it be front, rear or side. Failure to abide by this regulation could result in citations to the company.  Now that I hear that out loud it might not sound so cut and dry, besides the citation piece.  Let me try and simplify it for you.  We are required by OSHA to provide barricading during crane operations in two cases.  The first is required 100% of the time when using cranes.  We must clearly identify the swing radius of a crane to prevent entry into this area during active operations.  Probably the easiest way to do this is to string up caution tape from outrigger to outrigger 360 degrees around the crane.  We get a bonus when we do this as we identify the trip hazard that outriggers introduce into the work area.  The second scenario requiring barricades is not always so simple.  We are required to prevent anyone that is not a part of the job from entering the work area, especially when loads are suspended.  Now in this case caution tape might not be the answer, we might need something a bit sturdier depending on the situation.  Some cases might even call for a monitor to stand watch during actual operations. As I mentioned to open this topic, this is something that is easily overlooked and we must engrain this step in our pre-work process.  Like I always say, these few extra minutes are well spent if it prevents an incident from occurring.


Electrical dangers, especially from power lines, are prevalent with cranes. Contact can lead to severe accidents, affecting not just the operator but also others nearby.  OSHA’s requirements regarding working near overhead power lines with cranes are straightforward. For lines 50 kilovolts (kV) or less, the operator must keep all parts of the crane and any loads at least 10 feet away from all power lines.  If the lines are greater than 50 kV, then the line’s minimum clearance distance must be increased depending on the actual line voltage. You can contact the OneSafety team for the specifics in these scenarios.   Distribution lines are typically 50 kV or less and are the most used lines.  Whereas transmission lines are typically greater than 50 kV.  Knowing the voltage rating of power lines is key, notice I said knowing and not guessing.  To determine the voltage rating of the power line you might need to contact the power company.

Cranes are great machines that are essential to many aspects of our daily work life, but we must always be aware of the potential dangers. As mentioned in our opening, crane safety is a broad topic, and we only scratched the surface today.  If you need any additional information related to this topic, please reach out to the safety team. 

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

1820 Watson Lane East, New Braunfels, Texas 78130, United States

(830) 302-2330

© 2024 Ontivity - All Rights Reserved.