Thoughts on Crane Safety Prequalification of Suppliers

By R. M. HONTZ, P.E.

Construction Safety has become increasingly important since the advent of OSHA over thirty years ago. Capital projects in the process industry invariably list safety as the number one prioritized project objective, followed by cost, schedule, and quality. Because of the risks involved with lifting, crane safety should be a key element of all Construction Safety Programs.

If all lifts were made with competent operators using sound, well maintained equipment (e.g., cranes and rigging) and following a comprehensive, quality lift plan, lifting accidents would be a thing of the past. The following are some thoughts on how to achieve the first two of these three objectives.

Many companies have sufficient demand for cranes to justify owning their own cranes and keeping crane operators on their payroll. They are better able to control the quality of operators, equipment, and plans than the company that has an infrequent demand and must rely on third party suppliers. If you are an owner with limited demand for cranes, how can you be assured that whoever is sent to your site is competent and that the crane is in good mechanical condition?

The process of “prequalification” is one way. Prequalification means knowing that the company you call for lifting service has previously been checked out and will send a qualified operator and a well cared for crane. In order for a supplier to be prequalified, you will need a lot of information about their business and organization, their personnel, and their equipment. You're looking for a basis of confidence that when called, they will send a crane and operator that are “fit for purpose”.

Set up a meeting with the supplier's top management at their place of business and be prepared to ask a lot of questions that cover the following areas:

Suppliers should be given a reasonable opportunity to correct deficiencies. However, suppliers that fail to comply should be disqualified and removed from further consideration.

It is probably a good idea to consider repeating the process every three or four years. It may make sense to do it more often if:

Lifting is a risky business. The approach outlined here will help manage the risks by removing many unknowns concerning cranes and their operators. This is an important contribution not only to crane safety but to an overall construction safety program as well.