At the recent Association for Iron and Steel Technology's Crane Symposium in Pittsburgh, Pa., one theme was apparent: Qualified overhead crane maintenance personnel is hard to come by. Due to tough times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, little to no hiring of maintenance technicians took place in the steel industry, leaving a gap of qualified personnel in today's workforce. In addition to this gap, many electric overhead crane maintenance technicians in the field are lacking in mechanical training.
During the conference, Andrew Montalbano of U.S. Steel Gary Works presented his facility's approach to educating and enhancing its crane repair department's mechanical training. He said the facility's crane repair employees were surveyed, and 80 percent said wheel changes were the most hazardous part of their job, due to a lack of mechanical training. In a facility as large as U.S. Steel Gary Works, more than 280 cranes must be maintained, which makes for lots of wheel changes. The company's solution: Develop a training program target specific to the mechanical repair of F Classtype EOT cranes.
In order to set up a training program of this size, a committee of management, safety personnel, and former and current crane repair employees was formed to review maintenance and safety procedures and techniques, identifying the areas that needed to be taught and any special tools required to support the program. The result was a crane maintenance training program with six detailed training modules, including jobsite safety, gearing, motor changes, wheel changes, pony truck changes, and shafting and bearings, plus a hands-on trainer to support the class. “Safety was of the utmost importance,” Montalbano said of the training program.
In addition to the actual mechanical segments, setting up and safeguarding the jobsite is a significant feature of the program, and team communication and coordination is heavily emphasized. For example, crane repair personnel must go through a checklist of items, including wearing the proper PPE and performing a two-minute huddle in order to enhance communications among the team, prior to any repairs.
The mechanical training focuses on implementing proper rigging techniques in order to change a variety of size and shapes of equipment, recognizing damaged and worn parts, identifying hazardous conditions like pinch points, learning proper lubrication, and selecting the right jacks. Additionally, technicians learn how to interact with mobile equipment, such as industrial cranes, that are removing parts of the overhead cranes, as well as learning hand signals and proper radio communication.
It took four years for the program to be fully developed, and the steel facility adopted this training less than six months ago. Of the 80-hour program, more than 75 percent is hands-on training. Montalbano said he would like to add more subjects to the six currently offered programs in the future.
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