MRO Magazine

A skilled crane operator can control the swing


February 14, 2001
By PEM Magazine

There is more to operating heavy equipment and moving loads than meets the eye. A skilled crane operator develops a feel for the equipment he uses, along with a clear understanding of safe load lifting and transporting practices. The crane’s controls become an extension of his or her body as he or she instinctively moves around a shop. This skill can be critical in an emergency situation: the experienced operator can quickly deal with any unexpected circumstances thrown his way.

Last week, I was evaluating a young worker who indicated that he was able to handle a 10 ton overhead crane. Since we had just spent four hours in a training session, he easily covered the pre-operational equipment checklist and meticulously carried out the rigging procedures.

He set the crane in motion, obviously concentrating on the task at hand. He correctly lifted the load and followed the proper safety procedures. As he moved the crane forward, the load developed a slight swing. It wasn’t a particular concern, but the young fellow became nervous. As the crane came to the first crossway, he brought the crane and load to a sudden stop, which accentuated the swing. I instructed him to move the crane into the swing, which alleviated the problem.

On his way to the warehouse, however, he became more nervous. Instead of moving the load smoothly, he plugged the controls which caused an increased pendulating effect. Opposing trolley movement further accentuated the effect, and overwhelmed the young operator. Finally, we stopped all motions and allowed the load to settle. Positioning the load was not an extremely difficult task, but it did require skill. The young fellow was not ready for this function and needed additional practice with an experienced operator or trainer.


With proper instruction and practice, operators can achieve certification. It’s up to the supervisors and management to implement comprehensive training programs to reduce the risks to workers and equipment.

Joe Harnest is the president of Rival Material Handling in Burlington, Ont. You can contact him at 905-333-1432 or via e-mail at