Many industries, including manufacturing, shipping, and construction, require lifting heavy loads, which is easier said than done. From musculoskeletal disorders to falling objects, the risks involved in material handling are paramount. Aside from the direct health consequences, workplace accidents also affect employee morale, brand reputation, and productivity.
That’s why you must ensure the highest level of safety to reduce the chances of workplace injuries. Moreover, you should constantly evaluate and upgrade your safety measures as this is an ongoing process. Fortunately, with a few simple steps, you can keep your workers safe and your productivity unaffected.
Here are a few tips for operating lifting equipment as safely as possible.
Create a Policy for Safe Material Handling
Your material handling safety begins with carefully designed policies and procedures. Everyone in your organization, including your top brass, needs to come together when creating these safety policies.
Your policies need to outline general safety precautions, guidelines for handling industrial lifting equipment, and an action plan for emergencies. It also needs to address hazardous lifting and rigging practices such as poorly maintained lifting tools, using damaged storage facilities, and overly manual lifting, among others.
Also, you will need to take federal, state, and local guidelines into account when creating your policies. If required, talk to industry experts to get a clear idea of what should be included in your procedures.
Keep Training Your Workers
Training is the foundation of your workplace safety. You must train your workers to handle loads and lifting equipment properly. In addition to increased safety, it will also ensure optimal use of your resources, keeping your productivity high.
For example, not maintaining a correct posture when lifting heavy loads may lead to fatigue and back injuries. However, if your posture is right, you can avoid the risk of injuries and also improve your productivity. These may seem trivial steps. But when added to your safety training manuals and modules, they can make a huge difference.
Also, you will need to keep your training updated. Most companies train their employees whenever they introduce new industrial lifting equipment. However, even if you haven’t added any new equipment, there is no harm in refreshing your workers’ safety knowledge. It is an ongoing process, and up-to-date training is the backbone of safe material handling.
Make Sure to Use Suitable Equipment
When using lifting equipment, you must ensure that it is suitable for the task. You may already know that each piece of equipment comes with a working load limit (WLL) and a few other specifications. You must never exceed the WLL when lifting the load. Moreover, never forget to fit the equipment with the appropriate safety devices.
For example, if you are using an electric hoist, always choose a hoist with more rated capacity than the weight of the load. Also, make sure the length of the chain is long enough to lift the load from its resting position.
Consider the lift height, lift distance, and movement required when lifting the load. Check if other features such as braking mechanism, motor speed, and slip clutches are suitable for the intended material handling task.
Check the Lifting Devices and Loads before Each Use
Equipment inspection should be made mandatory before each use. The operator needs to check every piece of equipment, including safety devices, before use. Usually, a visual inspection is enough. But, do ask only qualified personnel to carry it out.
If you find a damaged or loose component, make sure to repair or change it before using the equipment. Also, never use any equipment with illegible identification markings or tags. Using lifting devices without knowing their exact rated capacity or other specifications is quite unsafe.
In addition to the pre-operation checks, you will also need to get the equipment checked and certified by experts. You may need to do it at least twice a year, depending on the service conditions and the type of equipment.
ASME guidelines also require operators and owners to record each inspection of industrial lifting equipment like overhead cranes, mobile cranes, rigging material, and below-the-hook lifting devices.
If you fail to do the safety checks as per the guideline, you will be putting your crew at risk. Moreover, you may also be facing penalties or even legal action for failing to maintain the required safety standards.
Never Let Anyone Stand underneath the Load
Falling objects are one of the most common safety hazards while operating lifting equipment. In most cases, workers tend to stand directly underneath the load. If the load falls directly on someone, they can suffer near-fatal injuries.
However, it could just as easily be avoided. All you have to do is make sure no one is standing under the load. It is also necessary to stay away (at a safe distance) from the load when it is moving.
Even if the equipment malfunction or safety devices fail, you and your crew will remain unharmed. Make sure your workers adhere to this simple but necessary safety precaution all the time.
Plan Every Lift Well In Advance
You can increase safety and productivity dramatically by planning each lift well in advance. Even though it is something as small as loading a truck using forklifts, make sure to plan it out. For complex lifting operations, you need to have a written plan.
They generally include:
- lifting heavy or irregularly shaped loads.
- lifting loads in hazardous or challenging environments.
- and lifting objects in unusual circumstances.
Every stakeholder, including the crew members, need to contribute to the plan. Share it with everyone involved in the lifting operation. And yes, avoid material handling jargon. You would want everyone to understand and execute the plan to the tee. So, keep it as simple as possible.
Ensure Regular Lifting Equipment Maintenance
Regular maintenance is equally important. If you find any damaged, outdated, or lose parts during your routine inspections, repair or replace them immediately. To keep your equipment in excellent shape, make sure to do the following.
- Create a thorough procedure for proactive maintenance and stick to it.
- Keep the equipment clean of debris and dirt, especially moving parts.
- Regularly oil or grease the moving parts of your lifting equipment.
- Maintain a detailed log of all maintenance and repair incidents.
- Source the suitable parts in advance to avoid delays should the equipment fail.
- Get your equipment checked by certified inspectors annually.
Take Special Care When Transporting Heavy Lifting Equipment
Sometimes, you will need to move industrial lifting equipment from one job site to another. However, transporting large items like cranes or alloy chains can be daunting. You need to take special care to ensure a successful hauling.
The devil is in details. So, you need to study and plan every detail of the move, that too well in advance. You will also need to review the pick-up and drop-off locations thoroughly to understand potential risks or challenges.
When planning your move, make sure to choose the safest route. Also, stow the lifting equipment properly to avoid any untoward incident. Never cut corners, as it can lead to accidents and costly damages.
When using lifting equipment, you have to take a few precautions to ensure safety and increase productivity. These are just a few of the common material handling tips that you need to keep in mind. However, depending on the scope of your work and the type of equipment, you may need to take additional safety steps.
If you are looking for industrial lifting equipment and rigging accessories, reach out to our experts today. At HHI lifting, we sell and rent different lifting and rigging hardware at reasonable rates. Call us today to know more.