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Have a Lift Plan

Have a Lift Plan

All lifts should have a plan that includes every detail from weather conditions to the shackles and slings used to rig the load.

We recently sat down with lift planning professional Frankie Daun, offshore construction supervisor, who has contributed to hundreds of lift plans and continues to campaign for wider acceptance of their importance.

Frankie is an expert, but oftentimes the people buying and using lifting, rigging, material handling, and safety equipment are not, which can lead to important details being overlooked at the planning stages.

Beam and shackles

Some lifts are put off for many days—weeks, even—because sea states, wind, rain, etc. make it hazardous to start lifting.

The first thing Frankie told us is that the bigger the lift, the more hours and money are afforded to everything surrounding it, including the plan. The second thing, he explained, is that when accidents happen, it is nearly always because a corner has been cut or human error has caused a problem somewhere.

Other sources tell us that, between accident investigation and looking at smart-crane big data, most incidents happen at the beginning or end of a shift or from allied equipment during maintenance procedures.

Lift plan drawings

Some lift plans include many technical drawings.

Later, we look at what the authorities say about lift plans here in the U.S., but our main motivation for writing this article is to explain why planning is important, even if a load of a few pounds is being lifted vertically in a secure workshop. In fact, these more routine lifts are accidents waiting to happen because a robust plan is often not in place should something go wrong.

Lift planning

All lifts should have a plan that includes every detail from weather conditions to the shackles and slings used to rig the load.

Lift planning: the essentials

It might not have to be a multi-page document submitted to multiple parties for review, but questions still need to be answered and other things considered:

  • How heavy is the load?
  • How do you know for sure—documentation, thorough examinations, load test, weighing, calculating, etc.?
  • Complexity of the lift
  • Where is the center of gravity?
  • Does it have pick points?
  • Are they secure (shape, wind loading)?
  • What rigging gear (shackles, slings, etc.) do you need?
  • People, permission, authorization, escorting / road plant closures, isolation diversions 
  • Risk management, dropped objects, failure rupture of equipment utilization factors 
  • When was this equipment last tested and inspected?
  • Has it been properly stored since last use?
  • How are you going to attach the rigging to the load and gain access to do it?
  • How are you going to power the lift—manually or mechanically / electronically?
  • Is the beam strong enough to withstand the lift (dynamic and static)?
  • Has the weight of the trolley and hoist been factored into the overall loading?
  • Will the load sway, move, or create other dynamic forces (consider wind, rain, snow)?
  • Does the load have a clear travel path?
  • Where will the load be placed down?

When we talk about the lack of a plan or a flawed plan, our minds go to dropped loads and the immediate costs of failure. However, as Frankie says, it might be many years down the line when the real impact of a poorly planned lift is felt. For example, an item might be placed that is impossible to remove for periodic maintenance, or something is installed the wrong way that doesn’t become apparent until a major project has arrived at its final stages. Such problems can be avoided with proper, early, thorough planning.

Spreader beam cranes

The weight of the load is just the starting point for a lift plan.

As we go up through the complexity of lifts—all the way to the world’s heaviest operations in the most hazardous and changing environments—the depth of a lift plan increases. It’ll likely start much longer before the lift takes place, involve more people, and cover more pages.

In one lift Frankie was involved in recently, the measurements from over 70 compressive load cells that captured data dynamically during a load test, were detailed line by line in the documentation. This all had to be cross-referenced, double-checked, and verified again. Then there were pages dedicated to:

  • Pitch: the up and down motion of a vessel
  • Roll: the tilting motion of a ship from side to side
  • Yaw: movement around the yaw axis of a rigid body that changes the direction it is pointing

Below-the-hook

As we go up through the complexity of lifts, the depth of a lift plan increases.

Behind every plan are people

One of the first things to consider is who you are going to involve in the lift plan to report into the lifting manager, who has overall responsibility for signing off the plan and overseeing the lift. Note that the competent person would be the function tasked with producing the plan for execution.

  • Engineering team (warranty surveyor, person in charge, offshore installation manager)
  • Lifting supervisor
  • Health, safety, and environment (HSE) manager
  • Quality assurance / quality control
  • Signal person
  • Rigging team
  • Crane operator
  • Lifting assistants

As each of these individuals or teams goes away to consider their plans within a plan, they’ll all look at every step of the operation, identify the equipment and expertise they need, analyze the conditions, and maintain communication with all relevant parties.

It helps if, at the outset, all metrics, acronyms, standards, etc. are identified and agreed upon so everyone is speaking the same language.

Rigging gear

Rigging gear and below-the-hook equipment are focal points of a lift plan.

Two things you might not have thought of

It was fascinating to spend some time with Frankie Daun (remember, he is an offshore construction supervisor, who has contributed to hundreds of lift plans) because he has many anecdotes about things that he has heard about going wrong before, during, and after lifts. Interestingly, to the layperson, the cause of these incidents would have been missed by many (most) people. Here are two examples:

  • Tandem trouble

Many lift plans cover tandem lifts, where two cranes are used at either ends of a load, perhaps to walk or upend it. Most lift plans will specify that two similar cranes will be used to make sure that capacity, size, speed, height, etc. is similar. They also assume that perfect cohesion will exist between the operators of both cranes. But what happens if one operator is quicker on the draw and starts to lift faster than the other? What if the newer crane is more efficient and raises the load higher at one end? What are the resulting dynamic forces and loadings?

Frankie was on a nearby site when a similar scenario nearly resulted in a load being dropped because one operator was quicker to move upon the signal to lift. It was literally a case of seconds, while the other operator considered the options, but it was enough to cause a near multi-million dollar problem.

  • Icy reception

A good lift plan will include information about the weather, even the likelihood of it changing over time, and name those responsible for tracking and reporting it. Some lifts are put off for many days—weeks, even—because sea states, wind, rain, etc. make it hazardous to start lifting. But what about ice?

As Frankie says, this isn’t always considered and in one instance, 4 tons—yes, 4 tons—of ice built up on the load / crane, meaning the gross load was enough to push the crane capacity way over what was planned, and the utilization factor was too great so the lift had to be suspended until the ice / water was cleared. Sub-zero temperatures also impact the use and performance of cranes in addition to lubricants, diesel, and other operating fluids, that can rupture pipe work-hoses or even seize mechanical components.

What the authorities say

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) talks about lift plans in P30.1 Planning for Load Handling Activities, which establishes planning considerations and practices that apply to Load Handling Equipment (LHE), other associated equipment, and activities when moving loads vertically or horizontally.

Critical lifting

Have you considered the travel path of your load?

The planning guidance contained in that standard is divided into two categories:

  1. Standard lift plan
  2. Critical lift plan

ASME B30.2 says that a lift shall be designated as a critical lift when certain criteria are met, including:

  • If loss of control of the item being lifted would likely result in declaration of a “Site Area Emergency”.
  • The item being lifted is unique, vital to a system, facility, or project operation.
  • The cost to replace or repair the item being lifted…would have a negative impact on a facility…to the extent that it would affect program commitments.
  • The item, although non-critical, is to be lifted above or near a critical item or component. 
  • The load being lifted is 90% or more of a mobile crane’s configured load chart rating.

(The U.S. Navy requires a lift plan for lifts over 75% of rated capacity.)

ASME B30.5 is also relevant because it covers the use of Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, which are very commonly the focal point of a lift and its lift plan.

Lifting sunshine

The weather is a major factor when planning a lift, especially one that will take a long period of time.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), meanwhile, says “prelift plans”, which show boom angle and maximum intended load, shall be prepared for each group of lifts to ensure that employers meet the applicable requirements of the subject instruction.”

It adds that, “The manufacturers’ rated capacity of the crane at the radius at which the lift will be made shall be divided by four before hoisting employees. The above mentioned limits shall not be exceeded and shall be recorded. It is not necessary for the employer to physically depict or sketch on paper how a lift appears, but to record information which ensure the safety of exposed employees.”

Lifting

How much do you really known about your load?

Here in the U.S., especially, you’ve got to look out for similar sounding terms where there may be a key legal difference. For example, rules with "should" are strong suggestions, while rules with "shall" are law. But then if someone gets hurt because a "should" rule is broken, there is a legal back door called the “general duty clause" of OSHA that can still result in a fine or cause of action in a civil court.

Remember that a lift plan is not just government red tape but a key safety tool to make people stop and think about a lift that is not performed regularly.

Offshore lift

Lifting on water presents its own challenges, all of which must be addressed in the lift plan.

Conclusion

This article was written to reiterate the importance of lift plans—it is not a draft lift plan and nor should it be treated as such. Always remember: a lift plan is not just government red tape but a key safety tool to make people stop and think about a lift that is not performed regularly. And most incidents happen at the beginning or end of a shift or from allied equipment during maintenance procedures.

By failing to prepare (plan) you are preparing to fail.

Crane hook

The bigger the lift, the more hours and money are afforded to everything surrounding it, including the plan.

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