Extreme Weather and Crane Operation – The Main Dangers
Mobile cranes, like all other machines, have optimal working conditions: preferred levels of temperature and humidity at which the machine is designed to operate safely.
Due to the size and nature of these machines, it’s imperative that special attention is paid to the working conditions for cranes. These machines and their operation are tightly regulated in the UK. Cranes are subject to compliance with Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment 1998 (LOLER)* and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).
The LOLER Approved Code of Practice and Guidance*- ACOP 8 (253-255) 253 states that “the use of lifting equipment in the open air should be halted where the weather (meteorological condition) deteriorates to the point that it could affect the integrity of the lifting equipment or expose people to risks. You should also ensure that appropriate measures are in place to minimise the risks to exposed people.”
Although this seems like common sense, work pressure can sometimes cloud better judgement. There are a number of meteorological conditions which would clearly dictate that it’s time to halt work: a freak hurricane, fog so dense that it impairs visibility or heavy hail.
Sometimes, however, it’s hard to know at what point exactly crane operation has become unsafe.
Fortunately, crane operators undergo rigorous training and are extremely familiar with machine operation parameters and the dangers of operating in adverse weather conditions.
Let’s have a look at some of the adverse conditions that cranes may have to operate in and how this weather affects crane operation.
Although different cranes’ wind tolerance can differ, it is commonly accepted that cranes should not work in wind speeds in excess of 25.75km/h. That’s 16 mph (7 m/s, 25 kph) when using personnel carriers (man-riding baskets). Modern mobile cranes are frequently fitted with wind-speed monitoring devices.
A crane’s reach when the boom is extended is a key factor when judging the hazard of operating in high wind: the higher the boom is extended, the greater the risk.
High winds pose an extreme hazard to crane operation and crane operators will always err on the side of caution in these conditions. Exact details of legally accepted limits are published in the BS7121-1:2016 manual.
BS 7121-1:2016 is the current British code of practice for safe use of cranes, detailing all standards to be met for carrying out lifting operations with cranes in the UK.
PRECIPITATION, MIST OR FOG RESULTING IN POOR VISIBILITY
Clear visibility is imperative when operating a crane; a crane operator must have a clear view of all possible obstacles, whether stationary or dynamic, at all times. Crane operators will not operate cranes in conditions of reduced visibility and, should poor visibility deteriorate while a crane is in use, the operator will follow a standardised safety procedure to halt the machine’s operation until it is safe to proceed with the work.
Although you should always check the manufacturers’ specifications before operating a crane in any extreme weather conditions, most modern machines operate safely up to temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius. Even so, it’s always important to pay close attention to a crane’s performance when the temperatures drop below freezing.
When operating in low temperatures it’s important to avoid sudden impacts to the crane, and it’s important to take extra care when hydraulic components are operating.
As well as paying close attention to the crane’s operation, it’s important to pay attention to all personnel working in these extreme conditions, as the effects of extreme cold can impair a worker from operating a crane safely. Wind chill can aggravate an already cold day putting workers at risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
OPERATING CRANES IN HEAVY RAIN AND SNOW
The main dangers of wet weather for cranes are visibility and instability. Cranes undergo regular maintenance, so they should be safe to operate in wet weather. That said, rain and snow always pose additional dangers to any task and there is always a possibility that some water may seep into some mobile element of older cranes. If in doubt, the crane should be left to dry out.
Heavy rain or snowfall may impair operator visibility. Should this occur, the crane operator will safely shut down the operation until work can safely be resumed.
Traction and stability are two other important factors when operating a crane in wet weather. The risk of slips dramatically increases, and waterlogged earth may be too unstable for crane operation.
Most crane operators in the UK are accustomed to operating cranes in wet weather and will know what protocols to follow to ensure safety standards are being met. These measures will include adjusting the load weight or distribution, reinforcing the stability of the crane or adjusting its working position.
STORMS AND LIGHTNING
Cranes are extremely susceptible to lightning strikes due to their height and should never be operated during a storm. Should a crane get caught in a sudden storm, operators will follow the correct protocol to ensure that operations are halted swiftly and safely.
Not only should the crane’s boom be retracted and all operations ceased, but all personnel should abandon the surrounding area.
Lightning strikes can cause structural damage to crane booms and any crane that is struck by lightning must undergo thorough inspection before being put into operation.
Although British weather is unreliable, fortunately crane operator training isn’t. Companies like Emerson offer nationally recognised crane operator qualifications including CPCS, SiteRight and NVQs, so if you’re passing by our cranes in poor weather, you can rest assured it’s in safe hands.
Interested in hiring a mobile crane in or around London?
Emerson Cranes offer mobile crane hire services catering to clients across London and the surrounding areas, operating an ample fleet of mobile cranes for all types of site.
If you’d like help and information on mobile crane hire in and around London, contact Emerson on 020 8059 2560 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our friendly sales team are always on hand to offer helpful advice, no matter the weather!
*Cranes: environment of use, including operator protection, the effects of wind and mobility (regulation 8; ACOP paragraphs 253, 255, 256)