Working at Heights with equipment that demands special attention
by Robert Watson, Safety Coordinator, Bigfoot
Lifting, Rigging, Hoisting
When our people are working at heights, building scaffolding or repairing sand silos, they may be 200-300 feet in the air. Cranes used in that work can be even taller.
Many people don’t realize that the majority of fall fatalities in the US are from around 6 feet—little more than falling off a desk or a table. So when we’re at heights 50 times that, we understand that there is no margin for error.
In using a crane to lift or replace multi-ton machinery like a generator, we lease them, so the crane operator is from the leasing company. Crane operator certification requires months of training in how to calculate load weights, wind interference, counterbalances and many other load and resistance issues. You have to be great at math and extremely detail-oriented because, with all that weight and distance, you just can’t make a mistake.
Our riggers on the ground help manage the process. Rigger certification requires several days of training. While the operator is focused on managing and delivering the load, the riggers must watch for wind changes, approaching traffic on foot or in a vehicle, or anything else that might interfere with the process. They must also make sure the load is fully secured before being lifted.
We carefully inspect all cables for frays at the start. Any that are deemed unusable must be destroyed so there is no chance of them being mistaken for good ones and used later.
Working At Heights
Sometimes those cranes are used to build scaffolding for use in repairing sand silos or other elevated locations. We train the people who work at those heights in how to inspect and put on their equipment and how to watch in every direction to maintain their safety.
If their vest has three stitches in a row out of place, it’s taken out of service and destroyed, same as the cables. No one should confuse a rejected vest for a good one.
Each person is responsible for properly putting on their own equipment. That makes the responsibility clear. And that equipment needs to be in place whether working at heights or walking across the yard. That way there’s never any question as to whether it’s in place when it’s needed.
We also train our people on how to secure themselves to a suitable anchor point, which must be able to hold 5,000 pounds. The easy way to understand this, I tell them, is that the point must be strong enough to hold up your pickup.
Our crews quickly learn to work together for added efficiency and safety.
I admit, sometimes it’s hard to sleep at night. We have people working 50 times higher than it takes to kill them, and we double and triple check everything to make sure they get safely home to their families every working day. But I’m really glad I get to be part of a company that takes safety so seriously. And so are all our employees.