Crane Spotter Training: The Basics

What do crane spotters do?

Crane spotters (also called ‘observers’ or ‘signal people’) have been around since the popularization of industrial cranes, and little has changed in the many decades since. Spotters are essential to the safe operation of any project involving cranes, and their expertise is developed over years of on-site knowledge and experience.

The 5 things that spotters always need to consider are:

1. Crane components and operation

Even though a crane signal person is not a crane operator, he should have the same knowledge base.

Different types of cranes operate at different load capacities, and knowing how a crane operator should lift and lower a load, how heavy the load can be, which type of sling to use, etc. is vitally important.

2. Crane limitations and safety considerations

Knowing what not to do, like not rigging above the center of gravity, performing a non-perpendicular hoist, or attempting a critical hoist (> 90% load capacity) with potential obstacles, is equally important. Sometimes the operator may not notice these small details, and it’s up to the spotter to point them out.

Some things spotters need to watch out for include whether…

  • the rigging chain is twisted, kinked, or damaged
  • the load is near 90% of the crane’s capacity
  • a load is being lifted perpendicular to the ground
  • the load hook will lift the load precisely above its center of gravity
  • distance between the load’s center of gravity and the center of the crane
  • the proposed hoisting path comes close to any potential hazards
  • the proposed hoisting path goes over workers, which should never happen
  • the boom deflection exceeds the safe load radius
  • loads are left suspended in midair for any reason

3. Crane hand signals (Visual communication)

Of course, the most important role of a crane signal person is proper hand signal communication and directing the crane operator. Knowing how the crane works and what to avoid would be pointless if the spotter couldn’t communicate that knowledge on the fly.

For a comprehensive list of animated crane hand signals, check this crane operating signal guide. In addition, The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) has some sample test questions available online.

4. Voice communication

Sometimes, hand signals just don’t cut it. For particularly tricky maneuvers, the crane signal person should be comfortable with hands-free radio communication (while providing visual cues and hand signals).

Voice commands should be short and to the point, so that the operator is not distracted or confused. In fact, the operator and signal person should agree on basics beforehand.

Voice commands should also be spoken in a specific order:

  • Function
  • Direction
  • Distance
  • Speed
  • When to stop

Of course, it goes without saying that the operator should be speaking the names of the hand signals he’s using while he uses them (e.g., Boom up, slowly, lower load, etc.).

5. General safety considerations

Lastly, crane signal persons should be very familiar with general safety precautions for everyone on site. These include:

  • PPE such as hard hat, safety glasses, gloves, high visibility vest, work boots, etc.
  • Weather condition protocol
  • Learn more about crane spotter basics

For more information about what crane spotters do or on how to become one, feel free to contact us, and we’ll get back to you promptly.

Family owned and operated since 1938, H. Brown, Inc. prides itself on giving complete satisfaction to our customers at a reasonable price. Our fleet of equipment includes cranes with lifting capacities of ten (10) tons through four hundred fifty (450) tons. We also have all types of rigging, including hydraulic jacks and rollers to handle your equipment and structures. If it’s too big for conventional heavy trucks and lowboys, we have dollies and extra axles to move your equipment or structures. H. Brown will always bring trained, insured and experienced personnel to your job, with well-maintained equipment that is best suited for the work we’re doing.

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1678 Highway 190
Eunice, LA 70535

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