From Bo’s Desk: Who Signals the Crane?

HoistRecently several of my employees were at a workshop, where the question was asked of the attendees if they had ever signaled a crane using the signal displayed to the right. Over 75% raised their hand, confirming they had told a crane operator to hoist a load. Then the question was asked, how many of you are qualified signalpersons? Over half of the hands went down.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to hear this, but I was. Five years after OSHA required all persons that give signals to a crane be qualified, we are still hearing of individuals signaling cranes who aren’t qualified.

There are several routes I take my thoughts, the first is why not?

Is it because of lack of knowledge about the requirement? I’m sure if you were in the industry in 2010 you remember hearing all the hype. In fact, I know that Crane Tech talked a lot about the courses we developed and offered. But that is beside the case. Just to clarify, OSHA §1926.1419 requires a qualified signalperson in the following situations:

  • The operator does not have a full view of the point of operation
  • The operator’s view is obstructed in the direction that the equipment is moving
  • The operator or the person handling the load feels that a signalperson is needed
  • Anytime there are site-specific safety concerns

Is it because employers don’t know what a qualified signal person should know? According to OSHA §1926.1428, a signal person must:

  • Know and understand the type of signals used (the preferred method is outlined in Appendix A of the standard).
  • Display a competent use of these signals
  • Understand crane dynamics including those involving swinging, raising, lowering, stopping loads and boom deflection
  • Know and understand relevant requirements of OSHA § 1926 Subpart CC.
  • Must pass an oral or written test as well as a practical test

Is it because employers are not sure how to “qualify” a signal person? According to OSHA, §1926.1428 employers have the responsibility to make sure that employees meet the qualification requirements (listed above). So what does a employer need to do? There are two ways that an employer can ensure a signalperson is qualified.

  1. Third Party Qualified Evaluator – use a company such as Crane Tech to provide training and testing of your employees.
  2. Employer’s Qualified Evaluator – attend Crane Tech’s Train-the-Trainer program and use those materials to train and test your employees directly.

The employer is then required to make documentation of the qualification available at the work site in either paper or electronic form. Documentation must list each specific type of signaling for which the worker is qualified such as hand signals or radio signals.

Is it because they think they just won’t get caught and the risk outweighs the time and investment required? While I cannot tell you the fine for non-compliance I can tell you that according to numerous news reports it won’t be long before OSHA will be increasing maximum fines for violations up to 80%, due to a provision in the recently passed federal budget. I don’t know about you, but hearing this makes me think twice that the risk may be much higher versus the cost of training. Regardless of the reasons for non compliance that may be a bullet we don’t want to try to dodge anymore.

Real Life Application

In the same week my employees told me about the situation at the workshop, I heard of an unfortunate accident, which reminded me how key it is not only to have a qualified (and experienced) signal person but how key it is to keep your mind on the job at ALL times. A person was rigging a load in close working conditions, with only himself and the operator in the area at the time. The person rigging put his index finger up in the air without the rotation motion to indicate hoist. The crane operator mistakenly followed what he thought was a signal to hoist, pinning the ground man between the load and a stationary object. Turns out the rigger was just trying to tell the operator to hold on a minute. While the individual did receive injuries, I was glad to hear that in time he will recover, but this unfortunate accident is a good example why everyone must understand signals and be qualified. And, how focused was this operator on the task? Was he distracted for a moment just to look back and see a finger in the air? There is a hold the load signal and it is radically different from a hoist signal.

So with this being said and the holiday’s soon approaching, if you are not sure what the difference in a qualified signal person versus someone who signals the crane is, get in touch with us, and we will help walk you through so you can be compliant. If you are distracted with the list of things to do, take a moment to clear your head and focus on the task at hand.

bo-collierAfter all, I’ve heard it said that the most important part of the day is getting to go home, and that is what I truly want for each one of you. Enjoy this time with your friends and family and know that Crane Tech is here to be a partner in you leaving work safely each day through the education we provide.

Merry Christmas,


PS. If you want read OSHA’s Fact Sheet on the Qualified Signal Person requirements, click here.

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