Important Precautionary Measures to Consider When Operating Cranes Under Bad Weather Conditions

02 December 2019

Starting with the obvious, crane operators don’t work when thunderstorms are nearby. Think about it, that metal frame sticks up into the sky. It’ll act as a lightning rod when a storm is directly overhead. However, not every bad weather condition presents itself so plainly. Sometimes, even a heavy shower can cause crane damage. All of that heavy rain, aided by the wind, is unnervingly good at penetrating sealed mechanisms.

Lightning Strikes Favour Conductive Surfaces

A crane isn’t just electrically conductive, it’s big, and there’s that boom to consider, which is reaching into the sky. If a weather report issues a thunderstorm warning, the operator, plus all nearby workers, need to stay away from the crane until the storm passes. The crane metal will mimic a lightning rod and draw a bolt towards the ground. Essentially, lightning strikes follow a path-of-least-resistance route to ground, so cranes are natural grounding stations. At the very least, the boom should be brought down if a storm is coming. If the crane is mobile, it should be taken to a place of shelter. By the way, these options don’t apply to tower cranes. There are, however, special lightning prevention systems, which are designed to alter and dissipate tower frame charges. In theory, a tower crane becomes electrically “invisible” when this system is installed.

Overcoming Bad Weather Threats

Back with a mobile crane, a smart retreat is the best action. If the weather drops a heavy shower, the water could penetrate and damage key system assemblies. The brake and clutch, the wire rope drum and hydraulic components, all of these parts suffer badly when impacted by water. Often accompanying the rain, heavy gusts of wind can topple cranes. Again, that boom has to come down. There’s absolutely no guarantee that a crane will remain stable when the wind speed rises. Last on the bad weather list, there are drastic temperature changes to combat. High temperatures expand joints and age rubber parts. Low temperatures harden and embrittle rubber and plastic components. Even certain metal parts can fail when exposed to a sudden chill. As for a fluid-based hydraulic system, the cold will probably adversely impact the viscosity of the force-transmitting oil, so equipment responsiveness is now impacted by the weather as well.

Turn off the equipment electrics and lower the boom. If a weather report has spotted an incoming lightning storm, there’s no time to waste. With rain and wind added, a mobile crane should be seeking shelter. Gusty blasts can destabilize cranes, and the water striking the metal parts can cause outer surface rust and inner systems issues. Temperature extremes are also a potential problem. By the way, if a lightning strike does occur, check out the rope and rigging. The heat generated by the strike probably melted the wire, so change that rope before operating the equipment again.

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