Planning for a Critical Lift

It’s the duty of construction workers to use equipment to complete large projects. Cranes are essential for lifting and moving loads to otherwise inaccessible heights. However, some lifts are more dangerous than others, hence the designation of a “critical lift.” Today, we’ll cover the common definitions of a critical lift, and provide guidelines on how to prepare a Critical Lift Plan.

What is a Critical Lift?

While there is no universal definition for a critical lift, various resources do include similar lift characteristics. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines a critical lift to include a load that approaches the maximum capacity (70% – 90%) of the crane, involves two or more cranes, involves the lifting of personnel, use of nonstandard crane configurations, or is in the presence of special hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a critical lift as one to either have a load that exceeds 75% of the crane’s maximum capacity or require more than one crane.

Who Creates the Critical Lift Plan?

Rigger explains that the critical lift plan should be prepared by a qualified person. According to the OSHA, a qualified person is:

“One who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training and experience has successfully demonstrated ability to solve or resolve problem relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.”

The qualified person is typically in management.

Creating a Lift Plan

Your site’s critical lift plan, like all other safety procedures, needs to be documented and shared with workers. The Hartford and Rigger suggest a critical lift safety plan should include the following:

  • Crane configurations and position
  • Environmental and ground conditions
  • Load radius, size and weight
  • Personnel and qualifications
  • Plans for hoisting personnel and rig
  • Procedures for communication and inspection
  • Weather conditions that would halt any critical lift

SafetyInfo details the types of sketches included in critical lift plans, which help workers visualize the required procedures. Sketches include:

  • Rigging Sketch: Identifies important facts related to the rig. Includes accessories, attachment methods, equipment capacities, lift point identification and load vectors.
  • Load-Patch Sketch: Shows load’s path and height.
  • Other: If not included on load-patch sketch, a separate sketch showing lifting and speed limitations should be prepared.

Fortunately, there are a variety of critical lift plans available to review. Other sections found in these plans include:

  • Equipment Inspections, including dates of completion and name of competent people who completed them.
  • Non-crew personnel present during the critical lift (e.g. local security control).
  • Proximity to Power Lines

Finally, plans should include sign-off sheet to ensure the plan has been reviewed, inspections are current and proper tests were conducted. Typically most workers involved in the critical lift sign off on the plan, including the crane operator, lead rigger, project manager, and supervisor.

Pre-Lift Procedures

Before the critical lift takes place, it’s important to review the plan with everyone involved in the lift., a website that offers OSHA safety tips, recommends practicing the critical lift with the exact personnel and equipment to ensure everyone is familiar with the process. Hoisting personnel procedures should also be reviewed at this time.

Critical Lifts are sometimes necessary during a construction project. Despite the increased safety hazards, preparation should be approached just like other crane procedure. The Critical Lift Plan should be properly documented and shared with crewmembers. Practice of the lift should be done beforehand to reduce accidents.

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