For those of us who have been working with cranes and hoists for years the daily performance challenges may be far less obtrusive but just as insidious as the challenges faced by those that are fresh or newer to the field.

The obstacles faced by novice crane operators can be overwhelming in consideration of the sheer volume of information that must be applied on a constant moment to moment basis within the workplace. But like all journeys, this one begins with the first step. Hopefully with an experienced operator that can be a guide through the very basics of load handling.

Once the preliminary introduction to the equipment has been completed, the learners will establish for themselves the feel of the equipment where the reality of operation becomes clear. The hoist or crane is your servant and will only do what you, the operator, command. The equipment is not independent of the operator but rather can perform as an extension of the person allowing extraordinarily heavy objects to be lifted and carried with cautious self-reliance.

There are three very different types of confidence required to complete the tasks of lifting and handling.

One of these is confidence in the equipment’s ability to complete the tasks we ask of it, without incident. This can be achieved by awareness of the limitations of the equipment, hand in hand with a thorough and proper inspection that can deliver this assurance. The preshift review must be backed up by constant vigilance throughout the workday, paying strict attention to all of the details of the work at hand in anticipation of the disconnection of the load from the crane at the end of the workday.  The repetitive nature of inspections can wear people down. Consider inspections are an absolute part of this job, never to be ignored and always requiring our full concentration. As operators of such critical equipment, we cannot be distracted and must focus on the work and be constantly on the lookout for variations in the feel and noise of the equipment and take note of visual indications of possible equipment failure.

The second type of confidence comes from within, it is self confidence, enhanced and qualified by excellent training and, of course, experience. Time is a great teacher but a solid foundation is essential. The provincial legislation, best practices and workplace safety regulations form the building blocks for a lifetime career in the field of material handling. After all, we are lifting heavy objects into the air and Mother Nature (gravity) says that the smallest error or miscalculation can have catastrophic consequences.  We must rely on the knowledge developed within each of us to conquer the fear within.

I would like to address the final issue, over confidence, this negative may be characterized by someone who is rushing, most often unnecessarily, skipping the required safety steps, and absolutely crucial inspections, taking unnecessary chances, and assuming. There are no acceptable assumptions that can be made in the business of lifting and moving of heavy objects. The running condition of the equipment should never be taken for granted. In general most workers are aware to this type of individual; they must be stopped, before an accident occurs. It is not a question of finking or ratting someone out, it is rather a strong step to ensure that the workplace is safe for all workers. Someone who does not respect the rules and requirements of the work requires an attitude adjustment, a correction to bad behaviour is imperative for the wellbeing of all workers.

As a worker who may not be directly involved with the lifting and handling of loads I find myself wondering, on occasion, if the designated crane operator is aware that he has my own and others safety in his hands. He would do well to demonstrate his abilities to maneuver the crane and load in a manner that inspires confidence to other workers occupied in the area around him. Never sacrifice safety for speed.