Crane Operators Make the Grade with Training

Employee training has a bottom-line impact on ROI. As a protective measure, training also can reduce the risk of property damage and loss of human life.

However, according to OSHA, crane operators often do not have the necessary qualifications to operate each piece of equipment safely, and the operator qualifications required in the existing regulations may not provide adequate guidance to employers. The risk of death among crane operators alone is significant, corresponding to a risk of more than one death per thousand workers over a lifetime of 45 years, according to OSHA’s Crane Safety Task Group. In addition to serious safety risks, poorly trained crane operators can inflict damaging and unnecessary wear and tear on overhead cranes.

In order to provide crane operators with knowledge about proper crane operation, maintenance, and best practices to improve safety and compliance, productivity, and lifecycle value of equipment, the Konecranes Training Institute offers training that meets and exceeds OSHA and the ASME B30 requirements. The Institute has trained operators in the steel, utilities, chemical, automotive, foundry, nuclear power, mining, aerospace, paper, and waste-to-energy industries. Suitable for individuals of all levels of experience, comprehensive courses include overhead crane inspection, operation, mechanical maintenance, operator safety, rigging fundamentals, Train-the-Trainer instruction, and regulatory inspectors training.

Train-the-trainer benefits

When National Oilwell Varco (NOV), a global provider of oilfield equipment services in Houston, Texas, began searching for a strong crane operator training program that could increase safety and awareness at multiple NOV facilities, the company singled out the overhead crane train-the-trainer course from the Konecranes Training Institute. The program provides a cost-effective approach to training personnel, presenting future trainers with basic to complex information, and equipping them with instructional skills to train employees internally throughout a company.

“Of all the training programs I reviewed, the Institute presented the best course outline, offering the most comprehensive coverage within a good timeframe,” says Christy Exley, health, safety, environment (HSE) manager at NOV. “The Institute offers a true train-the-trainer class. One of its greatest benefits is that the instructor teaches not only overhead crane operation, but the basics of becoming an effective instructor.”

There are more than 300 NOV facilities in the United States where overhead cranes are used extensively to manufacture systems and components for oil and gas drilling and production applications. Some NOV facilities house more than 200 overhead cranes in varying sizes and capacities. “Many NOV employees have the express duty of operating the overhead cranes,” she says, “and may have limited experience operating a crane.” Further, NOV manufactures very unique equipment, explains Exley, and it was critical that crane operators received instruction relevant to NOV’s processes.

In fall 2008, several NOV facilities throughout the country received on-site train-the-trainer instruction from the Institute. NOV crane operators with a range of experience participated in the training program. The instructors put their knowledge in layman’s terms, notes Exley, and performed hands-on training to show employees proper rigging techniques, load ratings, and inspections on their own equipment. “Even employees with more than 15 years of experience working in the manufacturing environment said they came away from the course having learned something new,” she says.

Maximizing uptime and reducing incidents

A second customer, a leading producer of structural steel and steel products, set its sights on improving quality of crane inspections and reducing total incidents. The Institute trained more than 300 crane operators and maintenance staff at the customer’s site in Nebraska. Ninety-eight percent of those in attendance said the training met or exceeded their expectations, based on post-course surveys.

Prior to the customer site employee training, four employees from this company had completed the Konecranes Training Institute’s train-the-trainer course. The success of that training prompted the plant-wide production and maintenance staff enrollment in on-site courses. Employees in attendance included those who operated cranes as frequently as every day and as little as once a year.

The on-site training was structured to improve maintenance and pre-operation crane inspections, which will help to reduce crane incidents and maximize uptime in the general day-to-day manufacturing process. Course material addressed all overhead cranes used at that location, from overhead cab-operated cranes to overhead remote cranes and pendant control cranes. According to the customer’s mechanical maintenance supervisor, employees have been catching more issues during maintenance inspections since completing training from the Institute.

In addition to improving productivity, efficiency, and safety, crane and hoist training from the Konecranes Institute can be a critical component to any preventive maintenance program. A third customer that's overall operator efficiency increased after completing a three-day bucket/grapple crane operator course. The training investment, less than $10,000, resulted in a savings of more than $100,000 in repairs, downtime, and wire rope replacements.

Although the performance objectives vary across material-handling industries, manufacturers in any industry can have both training and monetary savings, obtaining immediate and long-term profitability.

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About the Author: 

Jim Lang

Jim Lang is the general manager of the Konecranes Training Institute. Established in 1962, the Konecranes Training Institute is globally recognized for exceeding the highest safety regulations and industry standards. Lang can be reached at james.lang@konecranes.com.