Bridge cranes

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A bridge crane is a crane that —

  • consists of a bridge beam or beams, that are mounted to end carriages at each end; and
  • is capable of travelling along elevated runways; and
  • has 1 or more hoisting mechanisms arranged to traverse across the bridge.

This term is used in both the WHS (General) Regulations and WHS (Mines) Regulations.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020, all persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have a primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workers while they are at work. This duty means the PCBU must eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable, and if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, they must minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Scheduled plant

A bridge crane with a safe working load (SWL) of over 10 tonnes or designed to handle molten metal or dangerous goods is scheduled plant for which the following are required:

  • the design of the crane must be registered by WorkSafe or by a similar Australian regulatory authority (r. 243); 
  • the crane must be inspected and tested by a competent person before it can be used (r. 266);
  • the person with management or control of the crane at a workplace must keep a record of all tests, inspections, maintenance, commissioning, decommissioning, dismantling and alterations of the crane for the period that the crane is used or until the person relinquishes control of the crane (r. 237).

The person with management or control of plant at a workplace must ensure that the maintenance, inspection and, if necessary, testing of the plant is carried out by a competent person (r. 213). The maintenance, inspection and testing must be carried out:

  1. in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, if any; or
  2. if there are no manufacturer’s recommendations, in accordance with the recommendations of a competent person; or
  3. in relation to inspection, if it is not reasonably practicable to comply with paragraph (a) or (b), annually.

Assess the risk

Most of the accidents involving bridge cranes are the result of incorrect slinging procedures and unsafe lifting attachments.

Although the risks and related control measures may be well known,  you may need to carry out a risk assessment to identify the likelihood of somebody being harmed by the hazard and how serious the harm could be.

People who work with or near cranes are most at risk. Some of the risks when using a crane include:

  • structural failure or collapse of the crane
  • contact or collision of the crane or its load with people or other plant and structures,
  • falling objects, and
  • crushed fingers or fractured hands from attempting to adjust a sling as it tightens on a load.

A risk assessment can help you determine what action you should take to control the risk and how urgently the action needs to be taken.

PCBUs must ensure that they have consulted with workers, including contractors, to identify hazards and manage risks associated with this task

Training and licensing

National training guidelines have been developed. They are contained in the publication 'High risk work licensing for bridge and gantry cranes Information sheet'.

These guidelines cover the minimum work, health and safety competencies required for safe use and operation of bridge cranes (defined in the guidelines as Bridge and Gantry Cranes). All training should be carried out under these guidelines.

The WHS regulations (r. 81) provide that a dogging class high risk work licence (HRWL) is required any time a person is involved in:

  • the application of slinging techniques, including the selection and inspection of lifting gear, to safely sling a load; or
  • directing the plant operator in the movement of a load when the load is out of the operator’s view.


The following questions are to help identify workplace hazards and to reduce the risks. They may be useful points to discuss at a toolbox meeting.

Safe work procedure

Does your workplace have a daily checklist covering:

  • Testing of brakes - both for hoisting and travelling? 
  • Testing of limit switches with no load on the hook? 
  • Checking the pendant controller for correctness of travel motion - and comparing it with direction indicators? 
  • Testing the emergency stop switch function? 
  • Ensuring the hook safety latch is operable?

Slings and lifting attachments

Do safe work procedures ensure the following safety steps for slings are ALWAYS carried out?

  • Determine the weight of the load to be lifted and ensure it is within the safe working load (SWL) of the crane? 
  • Select the right sling and attachments for the lift? 
  • Inspect each item of lifting equipment before attaching to the load? 
  • Balance the load to avoid overstress on any legs of the sling? 
  • Reduce the working load limit of chain slings if operation involves the movement of molten metals? 
  • Protect slings from damage by padding sharp edges with corner saddles or wooden blocks? 
  • Hook unused slings to the oblong link or sling rings?
  • Chains used in corrosive environments are selected and used according to AS 3775.1 and 3775.2 or equivalent international standard?

Do safe work procedures ensure the following unsafe slinging items and practices are NEVER used?

  • Steel wire rope slings that are kinked, worn, corroded or damaged? 
  • Fibre rope less than 12 mm diameter for slinging purposes? 
  • Chains dragged from under a load or across floors? 
  • Chains dropped from a height? 
  • Bolts or shackles for joining or shortening chain? 
  • Shortening a chain with knots? 
  • Chains with links worn more than 10%? 
  • Chains with elongated links? 
  • Any slinging chain without the approved SWL tag attached? 
  • Hammering a sling into place?

Crane operations

Are the following safe work procedures for cranes ALWAYS carried out?

  • keeping hands and fingers away when slack is being taken out of a sling? 
  • everyone standing away from the load and the lifting path before the lift is made? 
  • lifting devices fully seated in the saddle of the hook before the load is moved? 
  • moving crane controls smoothly, and avoiding abrupt, jerky movements of the load? 
  • ensuring the load is high enough to clear all objects in the path of travel? 
  • reducing the safe working load of the crane if lifting molten metals?

Do safe work procedures ensure the following unsafe practices are NEVER used?

  • operating the crane if the limit switches are out of order? 
  • dragging a load? Always ensure the crane is centred directly above the load. 
  • carrying a load on the point of a hook, or inserting the point of the hook into a link of the chain? 
  • raising loads higher than necessary to clear objects? 
  • passing a load over people in the workplace, including the operator? 
  • leaving a crane unattended while a load is suspended on the hook?


Before any repairs, adjustments or examinations are done on a bridge crane: 

  • is a safe system of work established to protect those doing the work against the crane being moved or its power system being activated? 
  • is there a 'permit to work' system which includes locking out and tagging the isolation switches? 
  • is there a safe means of access to the crane for maintenance workers? 
  • is the crane located at the 'out of service' position during maintenance?

Do safe procedures for maintenance ensure: 

  • operators do not carry items in their hands when going up and down ladders? 
  • items too large to go into pockets or belts are lifted or lowered by a rope? 
  • loose parts or tools are prevented from falling to the floor? 
  • the area below the working area is cleared and a barrier erected to prevent injury from falling objects (exclusion zone)?

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