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3 Things to Know About Operating a Crane During Summer

3 Things to Know About Operating a Crane During Summer

Summer in the southeastern United States is often a hot, humid affair. Regardless of the temperature, this stretch of months is often the peak season for outdoor construction work, and that means you and your workers may find themselves operating heavy machinery, including cranes, under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Just like winter cold brings its own challenges, crane operation in summer has some special considerations to plan for.

Crane Operation During the Heat of Summer

Nothing has more potential danger in adverse conditions than the operation of heavy machinery.

When inclement weather conditions hit a job site, ensuring you operate your machinery safely is more important than ever. Taking the time to focus on safe operations protects the health of your workers and your job site from damage. Cranes are no exception.

You should always ensure your crane is being utilized safely by certified operators. Regular inspections of site and crane conditions, securing loads, and communication are essential to maintaining an efficient and organized crane project. 

Summer’s potentially adverse weather makes your safety processes even more important. So let’s review some of the hazards and precautions you can take.

1. Prepare Your Equipment for the Heat

It is no secret that steel becomes brittle in cold temperatures, especially subfreezing, but prolonged and high heat can also be detrimental. Most heavy-duty cranes in construction are primarily steel structures. And it isn’t just the metal at risk from temperatures either; sealants around motors and brakes can degrade or break, while oils and other internal fluids might need to switch to more viscous varieties.

To maintain safety and dependability through summer’s hot temperature, take a few steps to ensure your crane is ready for summer and safe to use.

  • Check sealed joints around components for degradation.
  • Ensure oil and fluids are an appropriate grade for summer temperatures.
  • Be aware that temperature can affect safety devices and rigging, and inspect regularly.
  • If you can, store equipment in shaded areas when not in use.

Summer heat won’t halt crane operations, but it is essential to take extra care when performing daily inspections on the equipment. No matter how well-prepared your machine is, conditions can slowly wear down components.

2. Keep an Eye on the Weather Forecast

Bad weather in summer often comes with high winds, heavy rain, and lighting, a triple threat to safe crane operations.  

If winds are regularly hitting even a minimum of 20 miles per hour, your machine's lifting capacity is at the point where it will become derated and impose a risk of lifts swinging into areas they shouldn’t. Pay attention to your closest local weather station for wind speeds and consider implementing a wind speed monitor on-site for more accurate readings. 

Where your site sits, such as between narrow streets, on mountains or hillsides, or in areas lacking tree cover, can enhance what might be a usually mild wind.

When rain hits a job site, from a drizzle to a torrential downpour, it is best to step back and assess whether to put your crane to rest until the clouds pass. Specific crane components, including braking systems and the clutch, are generally not waterproof and can suffer damage if operated when wet. 

But heavy rains, often seen with spring and summer storms, can pose a substantial risk to ground and site conditions, on top of machinery concerns. Downpours can quickly erode dirt around job sites, especially if final grading has not been completed, putting heavy machinery, including cranes, at risk of toppling over during lifts. 

There is no denying that cranes are often the tallest pieces of machinery on job sites. That height, and their primarily metal construction, puts them at increased risk of drawing lightning strikes when storms are in the vicinity. If your area is forecast to have storms, it is always best to cease operations.

Getting hit by lightning can cause significant damage to cranes and risk injuring operators or personnel located around the crane. Cranes rely on electrical safety systems that high currents can knock out, causing loads to drop unexpectedly or movement controls to become erratic.

Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from any significant rain or storm boundary. Portable lightning detectors are relatively inexpensive and can alert you to strikes within this radius. Your general rule of thumb is if you can hear thunder, it is time to clear the crane operation until it passes entirely.

3. Protect Your Workers

Temperatures don’t need to hit the triple digits to cause issues with crane operations. Heat affects both the equipment used and those operating and assisting with lifts. High temperatures are compounded by cranes' glass and metal structures, causing temperatures inside the cab to skyrocket beyond forecasted temperatures. 

To reduce the risk of operators suffering from heatstroke, try to implement the following:

  • Supply ample water for workers.
  • Cover exposed skin to minimize sunstroke risk, especially the back of the neck.
  • Keep an OSHA-recommended wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) monitor in the crane cab; when it becomes unsafe, have operators take frequent breaks or cease operations.
  • Know the signs of heatstroke, and designate a safety person to spot early symptoms.

It may be tempting for workers to limit heavy clothing, but hot weather is no excuse to reduce the wearing of PPE. Set aside an area in the shade with fans where workers can rehydrate and cool off. Heatstroke is a severe acute condition that can lead to confusion or loss of consciousness at the job site. If left untreated, it can lead to organ failure or death.

Comprehensive, Safe Crane Rental Year Round

You need to know that you can rely on the equipment on site. Poorly maintained equipment can put project deadlines and personnel safety at risk. If you are in the market for a crane rental company for a residential, commercial, or telecommunications project in the southeast, pick a company you can trust.

The best tools for operating a crane safely are experience, communication, and proper training. With over 40 years of moving and using cranes, Parker’s Crane Service has the expertise you need for safe, reliable crane operations, no matter the job site or weather

We pride ourselves on safety and our Zero Accident Philosophy and conduct many detailed safety measures when performing a job to ensure that no project carries unnecessary risk. We perform the following for every single job we take:

  • Pre-Lift Job Assessments
  • Daily Risk Assessments
  • On-site Hazard Analysis
  • Routine Management Audits

With a fleet of well-maintained hydraulic truck cranes, we offer not only the best equipment but can also help with site installation, maintenance, and operation. Our crew is OSHA and MSHA-compliant to ensure your site and crew safety.

Parker's Crane provides quality crane rental, rigging, and heavy hauling services throughout the Carolinas and the East Coast. Contact us if you would like to discuss your needs and whether or not our services and equipment will work for your construction project. We provide free on-site quotes and evaluations.