Working in various fields,  including construction, often involves operating in areas with suspended loads. While working under these loads is a common necessity,  it carries numerous potential hazards that necessitate careful attention and strict safety measures. Employers and managers are responsible for establishing and maintaining a secure working environment for their employees.  Workers who are at risk of exposure to suspended load hazards,  such as those working around cranes and hoists, should ensure compliance with OSHA’s suspended load safety standards. In short,  working or walking under these loads is hazardous within the context of workplace injury prevention measures.

In this article, we will focus on suspended load safety. We will address topics such as what constitutes a suspended load,  the hazards of working under these loads, and how to work safely in such conditions. Let’s delve into how we can enhance safety when dealing with these loads.

What is Suspended Load?

A suspended load refers to items such as construction materials, containers, machinery, etc. , that are lifted upwards and held at an elevated position from the ground using mechanical vehicles or equipment like forklifts, cranes, wheel loaders, and the like. In construction and industrial work settings, these loads are typically managed using equipment like chains, cables, pallets, slings,  and hooks.

To prevent accidents and injuries,  these loads,  which aren’t supported by a solid surface,  need to be handled with great care,  following strict safety measures. When not managed properly, these loads can become unstable, posing significant risks to nearby individuals and structures. The larger the weight and size of the load, the greater the potential danger it presents in the work area.

The Dangers of Working Under a Suspended Load

When it comes to these loads, the first and foremost danger that comes to mind is the potential for objects lifted above to fall. It doesn’t necessarily require the fallen load to be massive or to crash loudly upon impact to pose a risk; even a small load can result in serious consequences.

The shattering of a falling load can also lead to hazardous and lethal scenarios. The dispersed particles can bring risks of crushing, impact, and collision, leading to outcomes such as bone fractures, injuries to the eyes, head, and soft tissues.

Additionally, these loads could potentially contact power lines. Such situations harbor risks that could have fatal consequences.

How Do You Work Under Suspended Loads?

To ensure the safety of suspended loads, factors such as load dimensions, lifting method,  shape, and weight must be considered. Operating the lifting equipment safely is the responsibility of the equipment operator. Additionally, the operator must communicate with ground personnel before lifting the load.

The load should be monitored from the moment it’s lifted until it’s lowered. Tracking the balance of the load, its movements, or oscillations, and knowing where it might fall in case of any mishaps is highly important. Only trained personnel and an observer should enter the work area.  The area should be cordoned off to keep other workers away.  Nobody should be present within the zone where scattered parts could pose a threat in case the load falls.

The higher the load falls from, the larger the area it could impact.  Therefore,  the load should never be lifted higher than necessary or left suspended.

Safety Rules for Working Under a Suspended Load

It’s a common situation for construction workers to work under or around suspended loads. Lack of proper training and awareness of the associated hazards can lead to injuries and even fatalities. To prevent potential accidents and injuries, adhering to safety measures while working under or near suspended loads is of utmost importance. Pay attention to the following safety tips to ensure that employees remain safe from risks associated with these loads:

  • All personnel working with these loads should receive comprehensive training. Regular refresher training should be provided to keep the training up to date.
  • Workers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, safety glasses,  gloves,  and steel-toed boots to protect against falling objects.  Wearing high-visibility clothing is also important for easy visibility.
  • Cranes, lifting ropes,  rigging,  and other lifting equipment should be regularly inspected for signs of wear,  tear,  corrosion,  and other damages.
  • Knowing the weight of the load and ensuring it doesn’t exceed the maximum load capacity of the lifting equipment is crucial.
  • Prior to lifting, ensure that the load is balanced and properly secured.
  • Effective communication should be established among all personnel involved in the lifting operation.
  • The area where lifting operations take place should be cordoned off, and entry of non-essential personnel should be restricted.
  • Lifting equipment and loads should be kept clear of overhead power lines.
  • Lifting and moving operations should be carried out smoothly and slowly to avoid destabilizing the load due to sudden movements.
  • Monitoring adverse weather conditions like strong winds, heavy rain,  or snow and halting operations during unfavorable conditions is important.
  • Personnel involved in lifting operations should be highly attentive throughout the process.
  • All personnel should be trained in emergency response procedures.

Who Can Be Under a Suspended Load?

No personnel should be directly beneath the load.  Only employees involved in the lifting operation are allowed within the fall zone, but they should not be directly under the load.

Employees performing critical tasks for the lifting operation can be within the fall zone in the following situations,  where it is not feasible for them to perform the operation from outside the fall zone:

  • When physically directing the load is necessary.
  • When closely monitoring the movement of the load and providing instructions is required.
  • When separating the load from or attaching it to another component or structure is needed.

Is it Advisable to Suspend Equipment from a Crane Overnight?

The suspension of removable working equipment such as spreader bars,  hooks,  ladders,  is allowed.  Considering the weight of this equipment is negligible in  relation to the crane’s lifting capacity,  the equipment can be suspended outside of entry or exit areas.

In all other cases,  the crane operator must remain in control under the following conditions:

  • While the operation is in progress, which requires the operator to be on-site.
  • If the load will be suspended for a longer duration than regular lifting operations.
  • Until the competent person determines it is safe for the operator to leave and appropriate measures are taken to control the telescoping, load,  swing,  and stabilizer or outrigger functions.
  • Until barriers or warning signs are placed to prevent entry of workers into the fall zone.
Okan Ergin

Okan Ergin

Okan Ergin has been working as the General Coordinator at Ergin Makina since 2005.