How can you make a safer overhead lift?
It is a complex question that needs an answer to ensure everyone goes home to their families and friends in the same manner in which they came to work. Now more than ever, safety is at the forefront of more discussions when it comes to making overhead lifts.
From choosing the correct pick points for an off-center load to using the right rigging gear to protect both the load being lifted and those making the pick, there are many factors to consider before a lift.
For this article, we reached out to Tyler Henley, Mazzella’s national account manager for specialty ropes, and Wayne Wille and Denny Davis, The Crosby Group‘s business development managers.
We will outline important factors to consider in order for you to make safer overhead lifts.
What Are Some of the Common Causes for Accidents and Injuries When Using Cranes?
It’s usually one of two major problems that cause accidents and injuries:
- Improper connection
By arrogance, that means people think they know what they’re lifting, and what lifting specialists have found is many people do not. For example, they may think a load weighs 20,000 lbs., and it turns out to weigh almost 30,000 lbs. Not knowing what they’re lifting is a hazard. You’re going to overload your crane, and potentially, cause damage to product and people.
Using a load cell or dynamometer is all about knowing how much you’re going to pick up.
The load cell will indicate how much weight you have on your hook. Strain gauge technology measures the microscopic strain on the body of the load cell. Then, the results are converted into a pound, kilogram, kilonewton, or metric ton reading.
In terms of connection, that refers to how the load is attached to the crane. Using the wrong lifting devices or rigging hardware could have disastrous results.
The length of a crane’s boom presents safety issues to everyone on a jobsite.
If you have an extremely high or long boom length, you’ve got extremely large loads and very little visibility. It’s very hard to know what’s happening. It’s very easy to make a mistake without the right technology.
How Has Technology Advanced in Recent Years to Improve Crane Safety?
For load cells, Crosby used to have mechanical systems that looked like a dial. Think of a clock that’s gone from analog to digital. In the last 10 years, they’ve advanced to a wireless system that runs on 916.5 megahertz. With their StraightPoint products, Crosby has gone to a 2.4 gigahertz system, which is extremely reliable and will transmit up to over a half-mile line of sight.
A load cell looks like a block of steel. It has strain gauges on the inside with some electronics, and is powered by batteries. It’s basically a load cell, but in this industry, it’s called a dynamometer or a crane scale. The government calls it a LID, which stands for Lifting Indicating Device.
In larger and newer cranes, load cells are built into the machines themselves.
What’s the Advantage of Having a Separate Load Cell for Larger Cranes?
Typically, an onboard load cell in a crane system is a pressure transducer mounted at a dead end. It’s not nearly as accurate as putting a dynamometer below the hook because that’s going to give you your best:
When you put a load cell below the hook, there are several questions that need to be answered:
- How do you know the onboard weighing system load cell is accurate?
- When was it last checked?
- What’s the accuracy?
In addition to its typical use, a dynamometer can be used to conduct load or proof tests with a crane.
There have been changes in the ASME B30.30 Ropes standard related to the rope and fittings. ASME requires wording in the B30 standards as it relates to proof testing fittings after they’ve been installed in the field. With the correct counterweights and equipment on site, load cells could be adapted to handle in-field tests.
Crosby has seen their load cells used for load testing or proof testing of:
- Custom fixtures
- Spreader beams
What Other Technological Improvements Have Been Made to Enhance Safety on Cranes?
Crosby’s BlokCam system is a sophisticated camera you can mount on a crane block to give the operator a full line of sight below the hook. It looks at the load as it’s being connected. Also, instead of making blind lifts, operators have a bird’s eye view at the hook level of what’s going on below it.
In recent months, Crosby has developed a B6 battery, which is more powerful than the previous five versions. The newest B6 battery is lithium-ion based. It’s a fast-charging, longer-lasting battery. Typically, the battery’s going to last 10 to 12 hours now because of the lithium-ion upgrade.
Additionally, Crosby is looking at ways to improve the radio frequency signal. The BlokCam operates a 5.2 gigahertz radio frequency.
In the field, BlokCam has been added to blade tools in wind turbine construction. When crane operators are going to pick up a blade, they actually can see the pick.
The blades are marked, or they’re going to start to be marked again, where the lifting points are. Without these pick-point marks, there has been a lot of damage to blades during lifts. Unfortunately, blades have snapped when not picked up in the correct position.
Because of this, Crosby has started trials with some of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to put a BlokCam on the blade tools, and also, for tower lifting. When operators lift a tower section onshore, there’s always someone in the tower underneath the load. Now, with a BlokCam system, the crane operator can make sure there is nobody directly under the load before lowering sections of the tower.
With StraightPoint load cells, some of the additional features are in the accessories.
Crosby has a wireless light and alarm that can be used to let operators know if they’re overloading the crane. Also, there is an analog output system that’s wireless. Crane operators can take that analog output signal and have the results sent into a computer to help prevent overloads. There’s a base station that has a built-in relay designed to prevent a crane overload.
***This feature can work on any type of crane that has an electrical cutout.
How Can You Ensure Your Cranes are Used Safely and within Safety Regulations?
Any company that’s proactive on the safety side would actually encourage their people to have load cells. You want to know how much you’re lifting and help prevent any overload. If you don’t, you’ll likely wear out your equipment at an accelerated rate, including:
If you don’t know what they’re lifting, how do you know you’re not overloading it? In the overhead lifting world, you typically have a 5:1 safety factor. If equipment is breaking, you’re exceeding the working load limit. By using a load cell, you can see everything that’s happening, make any needed changes to improve your operations and prevent equipment wear.
Training courses are another way you can improve safety on your jobsites.
Properly training your employees is paramount to having a safe working environment. Companies doing training are proactive instead of reactive. As a result, they’re seeing significantly fewer accidents if you have a good training program, whether that’s something you do internally or they bring in outside companies to train their people. Additionally, you want to have a risk management analysis, too. Always understanding what risks are present and what can be done proactively to avoid those things will help keep people safe.
Unfortunately, however, lifting specialists have seen most of the decision-making is based on mistakes and issues, which is reactive instead of proactive. Remember, you can’t put a dollar amount on the ability to prevent injuries and / or fatalities.
How Can Companies Become More Proactive?
In the opinion of some lifting experts, using the content produced by manufacturers and distributors is one way to be more proactive. How-to videos are extremely popular on social media, and they can be useful in teaching the proper way to make overhead lifts.
A lot of people want to work safely, and product awareness often is the biggest challenge. Information being available to consumers is the key. Crosby has dealt with operators with years of experience in the lifting and rigging industry, and they will ask, “Hey, how long have these products been around?”
Sometimes, people are genuinely shocked because they just weren’t aware the technology was out there. As more people are made aware of failed lifts, there’s going to be a push to avoid similar instances.
What Do Crosby and Mazzella Do to Help with Training?
Crosby has demo trucks that travel around the country, and many in their sales staff conduct training sessions. While they’re conducting training sessions and showcasing the product, they also do the calculations of a load’s weight. If you’re watching a StraightPoint demonstration, you see 100% of load. Now, if you start adding angles to those slings, that increases the load strain. They do all the math on a dry-erase board.
On Crosby’s demo truck, they actually add the load cells and start increasing those angles. Participants in the demo get to see live that the load actually increased 10-15%. Following the sessions, people have told Crosby, “Now I get it. I see it.”
Similarly, Mazzella has found conducting application-based training has a tendency to hold attention, and keep people interested. The application-based training helps introduce the following:
- What the product is
- How the product works
- How this product relates to your specific industry
Simply talking to people, “speaking their language” and explaining it in a way they can envision is what will drive the technology and evolution of the lifting and rigging industry.
How Can You Introduce This Technology to Experienced Crane Operators?
Crosby is working with the operating engineer’s union at the national level to introduce this technology. That includes donating several BlokCam systems to their operating engineer’s main training facility in Texas.
As the union brings their membership to the training facility, Crosby is showing off the BlokCam technology. What Crosby has found is some people are early adopters, and others, not so much. However, the more the doubters get comfortable and familiar with the technology, they seem to like it.
Being able to see the load has helped communication increase. In addition to the camera, there is a microphone on the unit. If communication is down below the hook with the rigging crew, the crane operator still can be part of the conversation.
Remember, BlokCam is NOT meant to replace any of the existing communication or signaling processes. Hand signals still are critical in the crane world, and so are two-way radios. BlokCam is another tool the operator has to be able to operate safer. Think of it like the backup camera in a car. You can use it to help you view what’s behind the car, but you still have to use your mirrors to check other blind spots. Crosby has seen the same type of actions need to be taken by crane operators.
In recent years, Crosby has been bringing BlokCam onto jobsites. With permission from operators, Crosby has put BlokCam on their customers’ crane blocks, and then, let them use it. On more than one occasion, Crosby has put the BlokCam system on a customer’s crane and let them try it for a week. When going back to pick up the BlokCam after the trial period, Crosby has been told by operators, “No, don’t take that off. I need that because it does help provide additional information.”
What Is the Future of Safety Technology?
As lifts become more complex, companies will continue to make advances in safety for the lifting and rigging industry.
Since The Crosby Group purchased StraightPoint and BlokCam, it has been considering different avenues to incorporate multiple levels of technology. That could include pairing a camera with a load cell and an alert system. Crosby has been asked by customers, “If a block’s coming down, can we add a laser? Then, it would actually count down 50’, 40’, 30’, 20’.” Obviously, that would help the operator obtain additional information instead of relying on a call-out signal.
Additionally, in order to provide a safer lift for specific applications, Crosby has been involved on projects, where it’s required:
- Product customization
- Combining the technologies of different products
Wind Turbine Work
In recent years, Crosby personnel in the United Kingdom did work with BlokCam on wind turbine construction. There were special applications involved which required a combination of technologies to maximize safety.
Based in Spain, Crosby | airpes developed custom lifters and lifting devices for the wind industry. They make custom blade lifters, and Crosby incorporated a completely customized BlokCam to fit on the airpes blade lifter. It helped crane operators to combine those two technologies because they were able to see the load while installing the wind turbines. Before this unique solution, crane operators never had that capability.
Canadian Oil Refinery
In 2022, Crosby had a “unique and exciting” opportunity in Canada, as operators were picking up an oil refinery module. They needed a custom fixture, and added 12 load cells so they could monitor the load at each pick point. Because the software was able to monitor up to 128 load cells at the same time, the operators saw all 12 load cells live. The engineer loved it because he was able to tweak each individual pick point so it had the correct load distribution.
This technology is so far advanced from where a lot of the industry was only a few years ago. It may take more time to get operators to adapt to using this equipment in the field. However, through case studies and marketing of real-life use, operators will see the value in new technology.
Verton EVEREST SpinPod
The Verton EVEREST SpinPod 7.5 is a load-orientation solution that allows you to have 360° control of the load under the spreader bar.
The Verton Everest SpinPod 7.5 (SP7.5) attaches to a spreader bar and applies torque moving the suspended load on its axis. The unit is battery powered and uses gyroscopic principles to transfer energy generated from the spinning flywheels into torque to orient the suspended load.
The flywheels (gyroscopes) can spin up to 3,000 rpm (revolutions per minute), generating enough torque to move loads between 25 and 35 tons (depending on the orientation and area of the load). With the SP7.5, riggers can control the suspended load from a safe distance (up to 200 m), making lifting operations hands-free.
This technology has been developed with the intention of removing operators from the danger zone. With the ability to control loads from a remote control, riggers are no longer required to be near suspended loads to push or pull a tagline. Removing riggers from the vicinity of suspended loads is a significant improvement in safety in these very challenging and dangerous operations.
Because they have a lot of technology, the SpinPod units are very expensive. However, Crosby is developing rental units and how they can test it in real-world applications with low costs to consumers.
How Can Mazzella Help You with Your Lifting and Rigging Needs?
At Mazzella, we have you covered when it comes to all of your lifting and rigging needs. With our ready stock inventory, we offer all industries a variety of lifting and rigging devices.
We offer one of the largest and most complete inventories of rigging and lifting products in the country from some of the largest manufacturers in the world. Some of the products we stock are:
- Shackles—all types, sizes, and finishes from ¼ ton to over 1,000 tons
- Hoist rings—standard and metric
- Eyebolts—forged, metric, and stainless steel
- Hooks—swivel, eye, choker, self-locking, and weld-on
- Master rings / links—all sizes, types and finishes
- Turnbuckles and swivels
If you require a specific training course for OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliance for slings, hoists and / or rigging hardware, Mazzella can assist you in creating a safe and reliable workplace.
Our rigging training focuses on:
- Overhead cranes
- Below-the-hook lifters
- Lifting slings
- Rigging hardware
- Wire rope
All Mazzella trainers have been accredited by our company through training from a third-party company (Industrial Training International, Inc.), Mazzella Companies’ internal Train-the-Trainer program, and are trained on standards set forth by OSHA and ASME (the American Society of Mechanical Engineers).
Also, we provide site assessments. The purpose of an assessment is to systematically observe and record your lifting and rigging procedures, equipment, and records. This is not an inspection, but rather, a general assessment by which opportunities for improvement may be identified.
Rigging Inspection Services
Periodic, documented inspections on slings, rigging hardware, lifting devices, and fall protection every 12 months, at minimum, and monthly to quarterly in more severe service conditions.
Our rigging inspectors are certified to make sure your products meet OSHA and ASME requirements. Also, we provide personal fall protection inspections and basic level non-destructive testing (NDT) inspections to support our visual inspections.
Call us at 800.362.4601 or click here if you need inspections for rigging hardware, training, or any of our other services.
Lifting and Rigging
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