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Operating Cranes During Winter

Operating Cranes During Winter

While winter days in the Carolinas and surrounding states tend to be relatively mild, cold spells can often bring hazardous freezing rain, blustery winds, and snow to our area. Doing any kind of exterior manual labor, especially working construction sites, can be difficult when winter weather hits. 

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


Operating Cranes During Winter

When inclement weather conditions hit a job site, it is more important than ever to make sure you operate your machinery safely. 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 make sure your crane is being utilized in a safe manner by certified operators. Regular inspections of site and crane conditions, securing loads, and communication are essential to maintaining an efficient and organized crane project. Winter's adverse weather makes your safety processes even more important.

The three main components of inclement winter weather are low temperatures, high winds, and freezing precipitation. Even if you are only facing one at a time, extra care needs to be taken to operate a crane in winter safely. Let’s go over some of the hazards and precautions you can take.

1. Prepare for the Cold

Temperatures don’t need to hit freezing to cause issues with crane operations. Cold affects both the equipment used and those operating and assisting with lifts. 

Ensure your workers dress warmly for winter conditions, even if they are sitting inside the crane. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause a loss of sensitivity and small motor movements. If a heater isn’t available, make sure that crews have the ability to regularly warm up to stay in top form when lifting materials around the site.

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

To maintain safety and dependability through winter's cold temperature, take a few steps to ensure that your crane is winterized correctly and safe to use.

  • Check sealed joints around components for degradation.
  • Insulate motors, and consider installing a heater to the motor area or fuel tank.
  • Ensure oil and antifreeze fluids are an appropriate grade for winter temperatures.
  • Reserve crane use for daylight hours when it is naturally warmer.
  • Have operators warm up the crane systems before any lifts.

Winter cold won’t put a halt on crane operations, but it is essential to take extra care when performing daily inspections on the equipment. No matter how well winterized your machine is, winter conditions can slowly wear down components.

2. Handle Precipitation with Great Care

Winter precipitation doesn’t need to be freezing to cause issues on site. But the build-up of sleet, ice, and snow on equipment and surfaces can be considerably more problematic than a chill rain. 

Accumulations of ice and wet snow on crane surfaces or materials to be lifted can cause an intense amount of additional strain to crane systems that are already under more stress from the cold weather. An inch of snow adds over one pound of weight per cubic foot. That might not seem like much, but spread over the entire crane structure and surface area of larger loads can push past safety points.

If your job site has seen even a dusting of light snow or thin ice, check the crane and area around it to ensure safe operation.

  • Clear the crane of all ice and snow before operation begins.
  • Note any site changes due to precipitation, like lowered power lines.
  • Stop lifts when visibility becomes hampered by falling precipitation.

When selecting a crane for a project that will operate in winter, look for models with a closed track system. This protective measure can keep ice from getting into areas that are difficult to clean out.

3. Watch Out for High Winds

The winter months feature a wider swing in temperature over other seasons. We all know the days when we start freezing only to see a pleasant 60 degrees during the sun's height. This extensive range leads to an increase in wind occurrence and speed. And the wind is one of the most significant hazards to safe crane operation.

Gusts that reach 20 miles per hour can cause cranes lifting capacity to be derated, and many city ordinances ban operation when wind speed gets too high. Pay attention to local weather stations concerning current wind conditions, and keep an eye on the site conditions. 

  • Ensure loads are firmly secured.
  • Halt operation if the cranes or hoisted materials start to swing awkwardly.
  • If there is a chance of gusts that will derate load capacity that day, preemptively change it.

The geographic features like narrow roads in the city, decreased tree canopy cover, or hill layouts can exacerbate what might be an otherwise mild wind. It is better to play it safe than push into dangerous territory when in doubt. 

Professional Communication

The best tools for operating a crane safely no matter the weather is communication and proper training. With over 40 years of moving and operating cranes in North Carolina winters, Parker’s Crane Service has the experience you need for safe, reliable crane operations no matter the season or weather.

From the beginning of the job to the end, we perform daily on-site hazard assessments. Our fleet and employees hold the highest safety standards. If you would like information on how we can help with your current job, contact us.