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  • Writer's pictureCostello Safety

OSHA Suspended Load Safety Tips for Workers

The task of establishing and maintaining a safe workplace for employees falls on employers and managers. Hence, employers must make sure that workers adhere to OSHA's suspended load safety rules whenever they operate or perform tasks involving cranes and hoists.

What is a Suspended Load?

Loads may be suspended by forklifts, wheel loaders, and overhead, boom, and jib cranes. Essentially, anything that is lifted above ground is considered a suspended load. You’ll find such loads on riggings, slings, pallets, and various pieces of equipment. The larger weight and size of the material lifted, the more hazardous the job and its surrounding areas become.


The Risks of Working under a Suspended Load


The most obvious risk is that things often come down differently than we planned when they went up. There are situations when the material being lifted or transported won't simply crash with a boom. A light overhead load might quickly turn fatal.


If a load is dropped, it may swiftly break and split into a number of lethal projectiles. As a result, dangerous splashes, flooding, broken bones, and damage to the eyes, brain, and soft tissues, among other things, are possible. Moreover, coming into contact with power wires could result in a fatal electrical shock.


Working Under Suspended Load: Safety Protocols


Make sure to follow and implement this list of OSHA suspended load safety tips for a safer work environment. (You may also avoid OSHA violations and fines!)


  1. All employees operating equipment should be adequately trained regarding hoist and overhead crane safety rules and procedures. They should also be certified and licensed to operate said equipment.

  2. A responsible company employee familiar with the hoist and overhead crane safety tips should test hoisting and crane equipment monthly. In addition, rigging equipment should be tested annually.

  3. Do not carry loads over people. Equipment can fail unexpectedly, and operator errors can have serious ramifications.

  4. Parts of the equipment itself, such as empty buckets, forks, and masts, are still considered suspended loads. One does not have to be moving material.

  5. Further, knowing a suspended load’s stability or swing is essential. The contents might also be susceptible to movement when moving material or equipment.

  6. Put a “10-feet rule” in place. No company employee is allowed within a 10-foot radius of the suspended load in case of equipment malfunction or an accidental drop. If a load is suspended over 15 feet high, increase that radius.

  7. You might look into purchasing remote controls for hoists and overhead cranes. Operators may then safely maneuver the equipment from a distance.

  8. Check the load rating for straps, slings, and chains. Be sure they can bear the load of the forklift, crane, or bucket. Remember to always limit the load based on the lowest rating of the lifting system. If unclear at all, cease all operations until certain!

  9. Conduct safety inspections before using hoists, cranes, slings, and other machine components. In addition, they must adhere to the company’s set preventative maintenance and manufacturer’s requirements.

  10. All buckets, forks, and slings should rest on the ground when not in use, even if they contain or carry no load. OSHA standard 1910.179(n)(3)(vi) states that “The employer shall require that the operator avoid carrying loads over people.” As noted in an OSHA Standard interpretation, (all load-handling fixtures are considered part of the load (even if they carry nothing themselves). Also, take into consideration 1910.179(n)(3)(x), “The employer shall ensure that the operator does not leave his position at the controls while the load is suspended,” while understanding that a load can mean any attached load-handling fixture and the load would be considered not in use if there is no operator at the controls.

  11. Avoid “shock loading.” Do not suddenly activate the lift controls by issuing excessive force on the load. Instead, be cautious, applying power easily. Do not jerk the controls; accelerate and decelerate slowly.

  12. Don’t raise the load more than is necessary.

  13. Multiple employees should never be in charge of operating a single piece of equipment. Operator hand signals should only be given to warn of hazards.

  14. At times, surroundings can grow noisy, or a voice may simply not be heard over distance. Establish hand signals, and teach these to all company employees.

  15. Equipment operators should watch their load the entire time it is in motion, from liftoff to landing.

  16. No person should ever be permitted to ride in a tractor bucket or on the load itself.

  17. Always check for load balance, and clear a pathway before movement.

  18. Take weather conditions into consideration before moving a load.

  19. Loads that can potentially shift during movement must be secured in place.

  20. Be careful that the load does not shift outside the equipment’s tires or tracks. The equipment may tip over.

  21. Check that all alarms and horns are in working order.

  22. Maintain a distance of 10 feet from power lines.

For Suspended Load Safety Tips, Advice, and Programs, contact our team today to learn how we can make your workplace safer!


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