The role of a construction rigger is to install and assemble and then secure platforms and materials using pulleys and winches for heavy lifting. Depending on the type of job, Riggers on a construction site can be responsible for assisting crane hoists, moving building materials and even inspecting and providing maintenance for rigging equipment. They can even be responsible for assembling steel or concrete framing and can be found on any kind of construction site from high rise buildings to residential construction, renovation or even part of the backstage crew for an entertainment production on stage.
Given the scope of duties for a construction rigger, there are a number of hazards for which they must be trained to avoid. An unsecured hoist can quickly create thousands of dollars of damage and even lost lives if it is mismanaged by the crew. Certification and training is the best defense against accidents on the construction site and to prevent injury from one of the many hazards that riggers encounter every day. Hoisting equipment (such as cranes) should only be operated by skilled and trained personnel.
How Rigging Accidents Occur
No lift or hoist is ever conducted without a calculation. A rigger is responsible for making accurate measurements and calculations to assure a safe and successful lift.
A qualified construction rigger will:
- The combined weight and load of all hardware involved in the life.
- The total lift capacity of the hoisting equipment
- The load limit for components such as the hoisting rope, specialty slings and other hardware
- The best and most stable method for lifting and landing (lowering) the specific load
Frequently when accidents happen during rigging operation it is a lack of due diligence (not equipment failure) which creates the hazard causing injury to workers and damage to property. There are a number of elements of physics that can come into play which can create a serious hazard. It is important to remember that all equipment operation guidelines are based on “perfect” operating conditions which in the real world, rarely occur.
The swing is something that riggers and hoist operators dread. A load can be lifted with the right calculations safely but once it begins to swing and gain momentum that pendulum motion can quickly escalate into a very dangerous situation. Swing errors can cause a crane to tip-over or the force of the swing can also cause the load to loosen and fall away from the secure rigging, dropping the weight causing damage and injury to other workers. Slow movement with the hoist can prevent the occurrence of the dangerous swinging action and loads should always be placed below the boom.
The age and condition of the equipment can also play a detrimental role on a construction site if the equipment has not been properly maintained. Damage to equipment can happen when recommended load limits are not observed. Once equipment has been damaged it should be used on the construction site until it has been repaired and inspected and accidents happen when equipment is not taken out of commission. Damaged hoist or jigging equipment cannot be used even at a lighter load capacity when it has been compromised.
Slings should always be properly labeled to indicate their load limit or maximum capacity on a flat ferrule or a ring. The vertical load should be calculated at a forty-five degree angle and clearly indicated. Slings should also be regularly inspected for kinks, broken wires, crushing and or flattening, or signs of rust and corrosion.
It becomes not just the responsibility of the rigger but the job of the entire construction crew to be aware of potential problems and to report concerns and observations about the rigging hardware for the safety of the entire crew.