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Crane Safety

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Program Summary

Information regarding the safe use of mobile cranes on Virginia Tech properties.

The use of qualified crane operators and proper crane maintenance and inspections are crucial to reducing crane accidents. OSHA updated it's crane standard in 2014 for construction. In addition to OSHA, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) provide consensus procedures to provide up-to-date information on crane manufacturing, operational procedures, inspection requirements, and operator qualifications.

Applies to

This program applies to the use of mobile cranes on Virginia Tech properties. It does not apply to monorails, monorail cranes, top running single girder cranes, or overhead hoists - such equipment is not covered by OSHA 1910.179 for General Industry or 1926.550 for Construction. 


Contractors who will be operating a mobile crane on Virginia Tech property should coordinate activities with the university project manager/coordinator to assure required notifications (due to the proximity of the airport) are filed and departmental personnel and/or the public are protected from hazards associated with crane operations in the area.

General Requirements

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - A Notice of Proposed Construction or Alteration may be required for mobile cranes located in the vicinity of the Virginia Tech Airport, or where the type of structure exceeds a certain height. It is the property owner's responsibility to complete this form and return it to the FAA at least 48 hours prior to the start of construction or alteration work activities. Note: The "property owner" may or may not be Virginia Tech depending on whether the project is considered to be a renovation or capital project. For more information on this requirement, visit the Federal Aviation Administration's website. Even if a Notice of Proposed Construction or Alteration is not required, information should be provided to the Airport. Information typically requested includes:

  • Address/location of crane activities;
  • Cardinal direction of the crane from the airport;
  • Ground elevation where the crane will be set up;
  • Elevation/height of the crane; and
  • Exact start and stop date(s) and time.

Cranes must have the proper aviation flag on the boom (3' x 3' high visibility orange and white checkered), and the crane must be equipped with aviation lighting.

Building/department - The building occupants (i.e. departmental contacts) must be notified of proposed work involving mobile cranes so that appropriate planning and coordination of work activities can be accomplished. Depending on the location of the mobile crane in proximity to entrances and exits to the building and the scope of work to be conducted, alternate routes may need to be established during the course of the work and/or classrooms/offices directly below critical loads may have to be evacuated during lifts. Classrooms/offices beneath the load must be evacuated during the lift where there is a risk of the object entering the building's envelope if it is mishandled or dropped. 

Mobile crane operators must be trained, experienced, and knowledgeable regarding the crane they are operating. 

  • Operators shall not leave the controls while the load is suspended. 
  • Rated load capacities, recommended operating speeds, boom angle indicator, and special hazard warnings shall be conspicuously posted on the crane and visible to the operator while at the control station. 
  • Hand signals for the type of crane in use shall be posted on the crane.


The crane owner must ensure that a competent person inspects all crane machinery and equipment (sample) before and during use to ensure its safe operation. Records of inspection and maintenance, along with the operator's manual and load charts should be available from the operator. Any deficiencies discovered during an inspection must be corrected prior to the machinery's continued use. 


A monthly inspection of critical items (i.e. brakes, hook, ropes, etc.) based upon the manufacturer's maintenance and inspection items must be readily available for review. 


A thorough annual inspection shall be made by a competent person, or by a government or private agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. The competent person must have a thorough knowledge of the requirements, regulations, and standards governing such duties and responsibilities.


All cranes shall be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, limitations, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for the construction industry - 29 CRF 1926.550.

Swing radius 

The swing radius of the rear of cranes shall be barricaded in such a manner as to prevent personnel from being struck or crushed by the crane. The barricade must include the maximum swing radius of the counterweight, which typically is past the main body of the crane.

 Suspended loads 

  • Barricade the area beneath suspended loads to keep personnel out of the danger zone. 
  • Hard hats are required within this barricaded area. 
  • Never stand beneath a raised load.
  • Ensure the load has been properly rigged (and that the rigging is in good condition).

Power lines

Unless the power lines have been de-energized and visibly grounded by the utility owner, minimum clearance distances from overhead power lines must be maintained.

  • For lines rated at 50 kV or below, the minimum clearance distance between the power lines and any part of the crane or load shall be 10 feet.
  • For power lines rated at greater than 50 kV, the clearance distance increases as the voltage on the line increases.

Note: The majority of power transmission and distribution lines on the main campus are underground.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Persons who use or work around overhead cranes must attend this training.

Class length: 2 hours

Available online: Yes

When is refresher training required? Never

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Hoists typically only offer two directions of load motion: foward/reverse and up/down. Cranes typically offer three directions of load motion: forward/reverse, up/down, and left/right.

Also look at what the manufacturer calls it, as well as any design and installation drawings.

Hoists are typically mounted on a beam, which must be rated with a load capacity that is equal to, or greater than, the rating on the hoist.

Due to the close proximity of the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport, a Notice of Proposed Construction or Alteration must be filed with the FAA if the construction or alteration is more than 200 feet above the ground level at its site, or if the construction/alteration is greater than imaginary surface extending outward and upward at a particular slope. For more information, and instructions on completing the notice, refer to

Classrooms, offices, and other occupied areas directly beneath the load destination must be evacuated when the weight of the load is significant and could pierce the building's envelope (i.e. damage the exterior roof and possibly the interior ceiling). The area must only be evacuated temporarily during the actual lift. The crane operator will inform the Virginia Tech project manager/coordinator of the estimated time and duration of the lift.

It is the property owner's responsibility to file this notification with the FAA within 48 hours before the start of the activities. On capital projects, the general contractor is the property "owner." On renovation projects, Virginia Tech is typically the properly "owner" - regardless of who owns the crane. On renovation projects, the project manager/coordinator will ensure the notice is filed.


Contact Information

Robin McCall-Miller, Occupational Safety Program Manager

Phone: 540-231-2341