Cardinal Rules for Safe Rigging

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by Rudi Nieuwoudt

Rigging is a crucial aspect in construction involving the relocation of heavy loads and equipment. When performing a rigging task, workers’ safety should be of the utmost concern. Inappropriate load rigging can cause accidental slips — leading to property damage and exposing riggers and other nearby workers to safety hazards, injuries, or even death. To ensure all loads are carefully and properly rigged before any lifting procedure is performed, every rigger should adhere to the following five rules for safe rigging. The following cardinal rules must be followed to ensure safe lifting practices. 

Competent Personnel

The workers undertaking the rigging task must be trained to comply with all the rigging procedures and equipment handling. Professional riggers can foresee an imminent rigging problem before it happens. If conditions are unsafe, this group of experts will immediately stop the cranes or other material-handling equipment to ensure the load in question is secure for lifting. Some of the rigger's duties include;

  • Inspecting and preparing loads that need to be moved.
  • Setting, aligning, and leveling heavy equipment machinery.
  • Selecting the appropriate rigging gear.
  • Preparing rigging equipment including beams, pulleys, clamps, and bolts.
  • Inspecting rigging gear before final use.
  • Monitoring and maintaining rigging equipment.
  • Ensuring compliance with legislative and company safety procedures.
  • Communicating with the rigging and construction team.
  • Breaking down rigging equipment and conducting post-rigging inspections.

Get a lifting plan in place

A rigging plan is developed every time a heavy load is being lifted. The basic idea behind a rigging plan is to have control and establish safety precautions. It is an important planning process that will identify all hazardous situations that might be encountered during lifting. The first step when conducting a rigging safety plan is to identify the type of lift. There are three major classifications of lifting plans: Critical lifts, ordinary lifts, and pre-engineering lifts. Depending on the type of lift, then the rigging plan will have different concepts under evaluation to determine the steps needed to complete a safe rigging and lifting process.​ Once the evaluation process has determined the type of rigging and lifting plan needed, you will need to identify and gather information on the following components:

  • The rigging Gear
  • Shackles, turnbuckles, and slings being used
  • The weight being lifted
  • Center of gravity of the load being lifted
  • Crane capacity and crane charts
  • Height, width, and length of the lift
  • Lift Radius
  • Weather conditions when the process is being performed
  • Sling angles
  • Load angle factor
  • Ground Conditions
  • Demarcated lifting zone

Maintenance and care of lifting gear and machinery

Lifting tackle, also referred to as lifting gear, must be inspected at regular intervals to ensure safety in the work place, as well as for the user to be legally compliant. Additional legal requirements are proper sling and component trace able markings, correct certification, keeping of proper records as well as storage. It is also a legal requirement to only use lifting tackle that conforms to acceptable quality standards such as SANS, DIN, EN or other ISO aligned standards. 

Inspections must be conducted in accordance with maintenance schedules and procedures. The results of these inspections must be recorded properly in an inspection register or file, which needs to be kept on the users premises, and available for scrutiny by auditors or other interested parties. These registers must contain proper checklists that specify what the inspector must look for on each separate item of lifting tackle that he inspects. It is not good enough to simply put a tick mark or cross on a checklist or, simply state “suitable for use, or not”, on a generic checklist.

Apart from the inspection register, the user also needs to have an up to date inventory of all lifting tackle on site, as well as ‘certificates of test’ or ‘certificates of conformance,’ for each item in use.

Whether you own or operate cranes, lifting or hoisting equipment, you need to ensure that they are safe, and in compliance with statutory requirements. Cranes must be in possession of valid load test and inspections for all its critical components. 

Be Aware of Possibility of Fouling / Clear of Personnel

The term “fouling” refers to an instance where the load comes into contact with an unexpected object in its path. Fouling your lift could cause any number of dangerous situations, including:

  • The load spinning out of control
  • Knocking down a nearby structure
  • Dropping the load

It’s also important, for obvious safety reasons, to ensure that the path your load will travel during the lift is clear of personnel. It's always a good idea to conduct a "dry run" first without the load to make double sure that there are not surprises during the lift. 

Personnel should always be a safe distance from the lifted load and should never be present underneath a lifted load. The “fall” zone—where the load would fall if the rigging should fail—should always be avoided during a lift.

Before every lift, it is imperative to scan your surroundings for any possibility of fouling and ensure that all personnel are out of the “fall” zone.

The Weather

Are there any unusual weather conditions? These conditions should be accounted for when putting your lift plan together:

  • Extreme temperatures
  • Wind
  • Moisture/snow/ice
  • Lightning and rain.