Bridge cranes

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The most common injuries from bridge cranes are crushed fingers and fractured hands. Hands and fingers are most likely to be injured when a person attempts to adjust a sling as it tightens on a load. Manually adjusting a sling as it tightens is an unsafe work practice. It should not be allowed under safe work procedures.

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

High hazard plant

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

  • the design of the crane registered by the Department of Commerce, WorkSafe Division or other similar Australian regulatory authority; 
  • the crane must be inspected and tested before it can be used; 
  • Regulation 4.34 requires that a record must be kept for the crane in regards to; 
    • maintenance, inspection, testing, commissioning; 
    • alterations;
  • maintenance, inspections and operation carried out according to regulation 4.54(4) of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 
  • the owner's name and address; and 
  • as far as practicable, instructions and training provided for operators.

The following questions are to help toolbox meetings to identify workplace hazards and to reduce the risks.

Safe work procedures

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?

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?

Note: Where judgement is required the task should be undertaken by a competent person such as a licenced dogger.

Crane operation

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 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?


National training guidelines have been developed. They are contained in the publication 'National Standard for Licensing Persons to Perform High Risk Work'.

These guidelines cover the minimum occupational 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 Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 state that a dogging class High Risk Work Licence is required anytime a person is: 

'applying slinging techniques for the purposes of lifting a load, including selecting the method of lifting (by consideration of the nature of the load, its mass and its centre of gravity) and inspecting lifting gear (for suitability and condition):


Directing the operator of a crane or hoist in the movement of a load when the load is out of the view of the operator.'

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