Safety Checklist: Operating a Crane

Checklists aren’t exciting, but in the case of crane operations, they can help save lives


Plane crashes can be deadly, so pilots use long, detailed pre-flight checklists to help ensure that nothing goes wrong in the sky. Crane accidents can also be deadly. Operators constantly encounter situations in which a wrong move could mean serious injury or worse.

Preventing crane accidents comes down to reducing operator error, performing site hazard assessments and conducting daily inspections of the machine.   

Use this checklist as a starting point for improving safety. Of course, it’s only a general guide. Operators should perform manufacturer-recommended checks and follow the manufacturer's instructions and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's operation guidelines.

Daily Pre-Operation Check

  • Walk around the crane and check for any obvious damage or excessive wear and tear to the frame, base, ropes, hook, wheels, tires, boom and any other rigging equipment.
  • Inspect for engine oil leaks or other fluid leaks by looking underneath the crane and checking hydraulic hose cabinets.
  • Make sure the engine is in good condition by starting the crane and checking gauges, listening for unusual sounds like screeching or grinding and reviewing the maintenance log to make sure the engine has been serviced on schedule.
  • Survey the cab for obvious signs of damage such as missing or damaged knobs and levers or broken gauges.
  • Ensure all communications equipment, controls and boom angle indicators are in working order.
  • Check safety devices and equipment including brakes, emergency stop switches, warning lights, handholds, steps, guard rails and fire extinguishers (check the gauge and service date)
  • Test all crane functions, including steering, drivability in all gears and boom angle and extension controls.


Safe Operation Check

  • Is the operator is certified to run a crane? Is the hoisting and rigging crew properly trained?
  • Does the operator know how to read and use load charts and the in-cab computerized Load Moment Indicator (LMI) system if the crane has one?
  • Is there at least 10 feet of clearance between planned crane activity and power lines? Have areas of the construction site within the crane's swing radius been cordoned off?
  • Have warning signs been posted about crane activity in the crane's immediate operating area and along the crane's travel path?
  • Have hand signal illustrations been posted in a prominent location and are the operator and crew ready and able to use them?
  • Has the operator been instructed to lower the boom in high wind conditions or other emergencies?

For more information about safe crane operation, check out these resources:

OSHA Standards

Association of Crane & Rigging Professionals Guides

National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCO)


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