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When should the crane operator follow hand signals?

A crane operator should always move loads according to the established code of signals, and use a trained and competent signal person. Hand signals are preferred and commonly used, unless they cannot see the load or the place where the load will be set, safely and reasonably. If there is any question on your ability to see the signal man or the load another signal person should be used. Use of a radio is preferred.

Who can give the hand signals? or Who can be a signal person?

bullet a person qualified to give crane signals to the operator,
bullet there should be only one designated signaler at a time, unless one cannot see the other
bullet if signalers are changing between each other, the one in charge should wear a clearly visible badge of authority, or the crew and operator are fully aware of the main signal person.
bullet a crane operator should move loads only on signals from one signaler, Although an emergency stop or stop from anyone calls for a pause in movement until safety and situation is established
bullet a crane operator must obey STOP signals no matter who gives it.


What should you do when in charge of signaling?


The signalperson must:

bullet be in clear view of the crane operator, be aware of the standard signals for operators
bullet have a clear view of the load and the operator
bullet keep unauthorized persons outside the crane's operating area
bullet never direct a load over a person.

Hold your hands away from your body so that the operator can clearly see them.


If You are in the direction of the sun hold hands to side of body out of shadow


Always give signals according to the operator's right or left.


Do not give more signals than the operator can perform at one time.Sometimes the controls don't allow it, Also some contractors forbid it.


Use a middle-man to transfer hand signals when you can't see the operator, or a radio.


If multiple radios are being used on a jobsite be specific when calling or answering, which crane and which signalman or operator! Do not attempt to signal, hold a radio, and control the load all at once. The person signaling should only be in charge of signals, not landing the load!







Raise the load.

Cable up.

Index finger points up, hand & forearm make a small circular motion.

raise the load, line up


Swing the boom.

Outstretched arm with index finger (or four fingers) pointing in the desired direction,try to keep thumbs in



Raise the load slowly.

Cable up, slowly.

One hand is held flat, palm down, over the other hand which has a pointed index finger making a circular motion under the palm area

raise the load, line up

Raise the boom - Hold the load.

Outstretched arm, thumb pointing up, hand opening & closing.


Lower the load slowly.

Cable down.

One hand is held flat, palm up, with the other hand having a downward pointed index finger making a circular motion over the palm area

lower boom or boom down

Lower the boom.

Outstretched arm, fingers clenched with thumb pointing down.

Boom Up

Raise the boom.

Outstretched arm, fingers clenched with thumb pointing up.

extend boom

Trolley Out

Extend the boom.

Both arms outstretched, fingers clenched with both thumbs pointing outward.

retract boom

Retract the boom.

Both arms outstretched, fingers clenched with both thumbs pointing inward.


Walk the crane forward.

Forearms circling forward, away from the body.

Reverse the motion to walk the crane backward.






Everything slow.

Palms together, slowly rubbing.


Emergency Stop

Arms Crossed Waving



Routine Stop


Routine stop.

Arm extended, palm down, starting folded in front of your chest extending outward








Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators, and Conveyors Safety

Supervisors duck and dodge all the time allowing someone else top "hold the

John Thiele's reply....
All the training in the world will not solve this problem with
supervision!!!!!!!!!!  In my 24 years as an operator, inspector, trainer and
expert witness, I have found that there is really only 3 safe work places.
Gas/oil refineries, chemical plants where accidents lead to catastrophic
lose of equipment, loss of life and evacuations.  Accidents at these plants
usually cost millions of dollars and crane safety is given top priority.
Or, construction sites where top, not middle management have experienced a
major crane accident that involves loss of life or major set backs to the
project.  Only then, in construction, is crane safety given priority!!

You mentioned young operators second guessing themselves or being intimated.
This even happens to the seasoned operator.  Operators need to put food on
the table and all to often they are faced with intimidation to make a lift
that is potentially dangerous.  By this I mean being talked into the lift
because the crawler crane they are running is rated at 75% of tipping so
they will let some one watch the tracks and alert the operator when the
tracks move.  After all they have 25% to play with don't they?  Or using a
spreader beam that is not certified but the load to be picked has the
potential to come apart.  Maybe the spreader beam is built in a way that it
will lift 25 times the weight to be lifted.  But, if the load comes apart
and hurts or kills someone it will be the operators fault.  After all who
designed the lifting beam?  Who designed where the pick points must be to
lift this load?  I have even seen safety people not stand behind operators
that where in the right.  I guess they have to have a job, too, right?

If you over load a crane just once, you could be in fact loading the chamber
with the potential bullet that can kill on the next lift, a week later, six
months later.

There are so many hidden dangers in the operation of a crane.  A crane
operator has to know and understand the meaning of potential danger and be
on guard against what can happen.  I know that crane operations come with
many risks.  Every lift has the potential to kill.  But, the reality of the
crane industry is:  If you have an accident in most cases you're fired.  If
you refuse to make an unsafe lift you are fired.  And there is always some
young or old operator that will step right up to the challenge and make the
lift or have to go home knowing he made a lift that was turned down by
another operator and he hurt or killed someone or caused major damage.

Regulations and load charts are meant to be followed not played with.  If an
operator has an accident it is almost always 95% operator error or 5%
equipment failure.  Even the experienced operator makes mistakes.  He may
miscalculate the load chart, become complacent in the task at hand, get just
a little too fast with the swing or booming operation.

I know some of you may say every lift is potentially dangerous and this is
very true.  But, the load chart is there for the safe operation of the
crane.  That means the crane can do 100% of the listed chart minus the
deductions and not a pound over, period!!!!!!  Supervision does not
understand this!!  You can show them this in the load chart and they will
tell you, "just try it and see how far you can go with it"!  Have any of you
ever hear that one?  This problem is not getting any better even with all
the training that is being done.  It is truly ashamed that someone has to
lose their life or millions of dollars are lost before supervision wakes up.

Just my two cents,

Hope this helps.

John Thiele

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