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The Essentials of Crane Lift Plans in Australia: SafetyDocs' Comprehensive Guide

The Essentials of Crane Lift Plans in Australia: SafetyDocs' Comprehensive Guide

Sep 19th 2023

The Essentials of Crane Lift Plans in Australia: SafetyDocs' Comprehensive Guide

Crane lift plans are pivotal in the construction and industrial sectors, ensuring safe and efficient operations. With our distinct standards and regulations in Australia, a meticulous crane lift plan isn’t just a recommendation - it’s essential.

These plans ensure not only the safety of the crew but also the integrity of the structures and equipment. With numerous components to consider, from site analysis to load details and safety precautions, understanding the elements of a comprehensive lift plan is paramount.

At SafetyDocs, we’re dedicated to helping you navigate this landscape, offering tailored solutions to elevate your crane operations. Let’s delve into what makes a crane lift plan truly comprehensive and how SafetyDocs can be your guiding hand.

Site Analysis

Before any lift can commence, it’s vital to understand the ground you’re working on and the surrounding environment. Here’s what this entails:

  • Site Inspection: This isn’t just a cursory glance; it’s about delving deep into the site. It’s crucial to identify potential obstacles, from buildings to trees, that could hinder the lift or pose risks.
  • Ground Conditions: Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. A crane’s stability is only as good as the ground it stands on. Checking the soil type, its load-bearing capacity, and ensuring it’s free from voids or underground services ensures your crane won’t face unexpected shifts or instabilities.
  • Surrounding Environment: Here, it’s not just about the immediate vicinity. Think about nearby power lines, roads, pedestrian pathways, and other infrastructures. Is there a risk of encroachment or interference? If so, mitigating measures must be in place.

To ensure you don’t miss a beat, our Crane Lift Plan offers a thorough framework, helping you address and assess each aspect effectively and efficiently.

Crane Selection and Configuration

Selecting the appropriate crane and configuring it for optimal performance is a nuanced task that professionals approach with a blend of technical knowledge and experience. Here’s what’s at its core:

  • Crane Type: It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Different projects need different cranes. Whether it’s the compact manoeuvrability of mobile cranes, the towering reach of tower cranes, or the specialised functions of gantry and crawler cranes, the task at hand dictates the machinery. Each crane type has its set of strengths and limitations, and understanding these is the foundation for successful operations.
  • Load Charts: These charts embody countless hours of engineering assessments, rigorous testing, and real-world feedback. They outline not just the weight a crane can handle but also the radius at which the load can be safely carried, the influence of boom angles, and the impact of wind speeds. Each chart segment provides a layer of knowledge, dictating how to operate within the safety margins.

Staying within these parameters isn’t just a recommendation - it’s the law of crane operations. The implications of overlooking or misinterpreting these details stretch beyond equipment damage; it risks lives. Any seasoned professional will attest that a deep understanding and reverence for the load chart is non-negotiable.

  • Configuration: Each crane is an intricate assembly of mechanical components, and its setup goes beyond the basics. It’s about understanding the ground conditions and ensuring the crane’s base is solid. The boom length needs to be adjusted for the current lift and potential obstacles in its path.

Counterweights, essential for crane balance, must be calibrated meticulously, considering the load’s dynamics. On the other hand, outriggers provide stability, but their deployment should be in tune with the ground’s load-bearing capacity.

The configuration is a symphony of precision, insight, and experience, ensuring the crane operates at its peak potential without hiccups. With a comprehensive crane lift plan, professionals can ensure these elements align seamlessly, leading to safe and efficient lifting operations.

Load Details

Every successful crane operation hinges on the details. While the machinery’s capabilities and configurations play their parts, understanding the intricacies of the load being lifted is paramount. In essence, it’s a ballet of numbers, equipment, and physics, and here’s how the professionals break it down:

  • Exact Weight and Dimensions: This is where precision meets operation. Estimations or approximations in this domain are a recipe for disaster. The load’s weight will dictate the crane type, configuration, and even the trajectory of the lift. Meanwhile, the dimensions will influence the rigging choices, the clearances required, the potential for wind resistance, and the load’s behaviour during the lift.

As any veteran of the field will attest, an inch or a kilogram off can dramatically alter the dynamics of a lift. Therefore, employing accurate measuring tools and methodologies and frequently rechecking is a mainstay in crane operations.

  • Rigging Equipment Selection: Once the load’s specifics are established, the next puzzle piece is the rigging. It’s not as simple as choosing the strongest sling or the sturdiest shackle. It’s about understanding the load’s nature, whether it’s symmetrical or has an off-centre gravity, whether it’s rigid or flexible, or if it has potential pressure points.

The rigging needs to accommodate these nuances, ensuring the load remains stable and secure throughout the lift. Additionally, it’s vital to inspect and maintain all rigging equipment regularly. Wear and tear, unnoticed, can be the unseen flaw in an otherwise perfect operation.

In the world of crane operations, the load is more than just an object being lifted. It’s a central character in a safety, efficiency, and precision narrative. And understanding its details in depth is what sets the professionals apart.

Crane Lift

Lift Sequence and Procedure

Every successful crane operation is underpinned by a meticulously planned lift sequence. From the earliest planning stages to the final placement of the load, both precision and rigorous attention to detail are indispensable. The primary facets of this process encompass:

1. Mapping the Load’s Journey 

Before embarking on the lift, comprehensively plotting the load’s course from its initial position to its intended destination is vital. Key considerations include:

  • Obstacles: Identify both fixed obstacles, such as buildings and utility poles, and mobile ones, like other machinery or moving vehicles
  • Ground Conditions: Evaluate the ground’s stability to ensure it can adequately support the crane and the load. Areas with wet or uneven terrain that might compromise stability should be avoided or prepared appropriately.
  • Overhead Hazards: Always be wary of power lines, bridges, or any overhead structures that could obstruct or interfere with the lift.
  • Wind and Weather Conditions: Monitor local weather forecasts. Strong gusts or unexpected weather shifts can drastically affect the operation’s safety.
  • Human Traffic: Designate safe zones and ensure that the load’s path is clear of non-essential personnel, reducing the risk of accidents.

2. Communication - Hand Signals, Radios, and Whistles

  • Hand Signals: These non-verbal cues form the foundation of communication between the crane operator and the signaler (dogger):
    • Hoisting (Raise): The index finger is pointed upwards with the hand turning in a circular motion.
    • Hoisting (Lower): With the arm extended and the palm facing down, the arm moves up and down.
    • Bluffing Boom (Up): Extend a straight arm, close the fist, point the thumb upwards, and move the hand upward.
    • Bluffing Boom (Down): With the arm extended straight, point the thumb downward and move the arm down.
    • Slewing: Point the index finger in the desired direction.
    • Telescoping (Boom Extend): Bend the arm, pointing downwards towards the body.
    • Boom Retract: Using a bent arm, closed fist, and extended thumb, move the arm away from the body.
    • Stop: Raise the palm upwards with a closed fist and an extended thumb.
  • Radios: In environments where visibility is compromised or distances separate team members, two-way radios bridge the communication gap, allowing for real-time, explicit directives.
  • Whistles: An auxiliary yet impactful communication tool, especially potent in situations with compromised visibility or when other communication methods might be obscured.

3. Continuous Monitoring

As operations unfold, continuous surveillance becomes pivotal. Conditions can shift quickly, and real-time adjustments ensure operations stay within safe and predefined parameters.

4. Concluding the Lift

Once the load is securely situated, conducting a post-operation review ensures future success. This entails inspecting all equipment for wear or damage and ensuring the site is clear of obstructions and personnel.

Adherence to these guidelines and maintaining fluid communication ensures that crane operations are executed both safely and proficiently. Proper training and a deep-rooted familiarity with these protocols are essential to a successful lift.

Worker directing crane lift

Personnel and Training

Ensuring a skilled and informed team is looking after crane operations is a major factor in safety and efficacy. This goes beyond just being present on-site; it’s about equipping every individual with the necessary knowledge and expertise. Here’s what this entails:

  1. High-Risk Work Licence (Crane Operations): A primary certification for crane operators in Australia, this licence attests to an operator’s knowledge and adherence to national standards for safe crane operations.
  2. Load Slinging/Rigging: Essential for attaching loads to cranes. This training covers the nitty-gritty of selecting the right lifting gear and safely coordinating with crane operators.
  3. Work Safely at Heights: This training becomes crucial in crane operations, where loads are hoisted to significant altitudes or where operators may be stationed on elevated platforms. It instils the skills needed to operate safely in high-risk situations.
  4. Emergency Evacuation Procedures: Given the unique challenges of crane operations, from potential dropped loads to unexpected equipment malfunctions, a regimented evacuation protocol is vital.
  5. Traffic Management: Especially when the crane operation is mobile or close to public thoroughfares, this training is pivotal. It guarantees the safe movement of cranes, machinery, and other vehicles.
  6. Safety Induction Training (White Card): An induction into construction safety in Australia, it’s paramount for crane operators and all on-site personnel.

In essence, the proper training and certification are the linchpins of safety in crane operations. It’s not just about preventing mishaps but ensuring an efficient and well-coordinated operation where everyone is acutely aware of their role and responsibility.

Safety Measures and Precautions

Safety isn’t merely a buzzword in crane operations; it’s the foundation for successful operations. Rigorous adherence to safety protocols not only ensures the well-being of everyone on site but also guarantees the smooth and efficient progression of tasks. Here are some key safety measures and precautions crane operators consider:

  1. Monitoring Weather Conditions: The large silhouette of a crane doesn’t just make it an imposing figure on a construction site but also a lightning rod for environmental factors. High winds can sway a crane or its load, potentially leading to catastrophic consequences. Bad weather, be it rain or snow, can render surfaces slippery, complicating operations. It’s imperative that before and during operations, teams keep a close eye on weather forecasts and real-time conditions. Changes or even halts in operation might be necessary when the weather turns unfavourable.
  2. Emergency Plans: The unpredictable nature of construction and lifting operations imposes the establishment of thorough emergency protocols. This includes designated safe zones and rapid response measures. With malfunctions, structural failures, or other threats, a clear and well-practised emergency plan can be the difference between chaos and controlled response. Regular briefings can ensure that everyone knows their role when the unexpected strikes.
  3. Regular Equipment Inspections: Given their mechanical complexity and the large loads they bear, cranes are susceptible to wear and tear. Regular and rigorous inspections are a must. These encompass not just the crane itself but also associated equipment like hooks, ropes, and outriggers. Scheduled maintenance based on manufacturer guidelines and unscheduled checks after events like storms or heavy-duty tasks can catch potential issues before they evolve into real threats.
  4. Ground Conditions: Before the crane even starts its operations, the ground on which it stands must be assessed. Soft or unstable ground can lead to the crane tipping over or sinking. Regular checks and ground stabilisation methods can prevent such incidents.
  5. Proximity Hazards: Crane operators are always wary of surrounding structures, power lines, and other potential obstacles. The trajectory of the crane and its load should always be clear of these hazards.

In conclusion, safety in crane operations isn’t a one-time checklist but an ongoing commitment. It’s a holistic approach, encompassing everything from the natural environment to the mechanical integrity of the equipment. In lifting and construction, ‘Safety First’ isn’t just a saying; it’s a way of life.

Danger sign indicating oversized crane vehicle


In crane operations, documentation is the foundation of safety and compliance. The right documentation ensures that every operation is well-planned, executed correctly, and recorded for future reference. Here’s a breakdown of key documents associated with crane use in Australia:

Crane Lift Plans

Integral to any lifting operation, these plans provide detailed insights into the procedure. This document captures every facet of the operation, from the load’s weight and dimensions to the personnel involved and their roles.

Record Keeping

A broad term that encompasses:

  • Maintenance Logs: A chronological record of routine check-ups, part replacements, and significant repairs, ensuring the equipment’s longevity and optimal function.
  • Inspection Reports: Periodic assessments to confirm the crane’s condition, flagging any potential issues before they escalate.
  • Lift Records: An account of individual lifts, spotlighting specifics like load characteristics, crane configuration, and any encountered challenges.
  • Operator Training and Certifications: Testimonies to the competencies and qualifications of crane operators, assuring operations remain in skilled hands.

Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS)

For high-risk construction tasks involving cranes, SWMS define hazards and controls, ensuring work is carried out safely.

Incident and Accident Reports

Crucial tools for learning and improvement, reports delve into mishaps, highlighting causes and suggesting preventive actions for the future.

Operator Manuals

These handbooks, tailored to individual crane models, offer exhaustive information on the equipment’s functionalities, safety guidelines, and more.

Risk Assessments

Executed before potentially risky lifts, these evaluations pinpoint possible hazards, laying out strategies for their management.

By maintaining and regularly updating these documents, companies ensure they’re meeting legal obligations and prioritising the safety and efficiency of their operations.

Compliance with Regulations in Australia

In crane operations, compliance isn’t just about adhering to the rules. It’s about ensuring the safety of everyone involved and the efficiency of operations. In Australia, stringent regulations exist that companies must follow to provide the highest safety standards.

The cornerstone of crane operations in Australia is the AS 2550 – Cranes, Hoists and Winches series. This standard outlines the requirements for the safe use of these machines, including design, inspection, and operation specifics. Adhering to AS 2550 not only assists with legal compliance but also confirms that operations align with industry best practices.

But AS 2550 isn’t the sole guiding document. The Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulations also play a pivotal role, particularly when crane operations overlap with construction activities. These regulations offer a comprehensive framework for risk management, from identifying hazards to implementing control measures.

An additional guidance layer comes from the Code of Practice for Safe Use of Mobile Cranes. This provides practical advice to businesses and workers on staying compliant and safe during crane operations.

Lastly, state-specific regulations and guidance can also come into play. Individual states might have additional or nuanced requirements that companies need to take heed of.

Compliance, therefore, becomes multi-faceted. It’s about understanding and integrating national standards, WHS regulations, best practice codes, and state-specific guidance. Only then can a company genuinely say its crane operations are fully compliant.

Working at Heights Permit document


In the world of crane operations, ensuring safety and compliance is paramount. As industry professionals, we must consistently uphold the highest standards, making every lift not just about getting the job done but doing it safely and in line with best practices. However, staying compliant and updated can sometimes feel overwhelming, given the intricate regulations and requirements.

For those aiming to simplify this process and maintain the utmost standards, SafetyDocs offers a range of tailored solutions:

  • Crane Lift Plans: A well-structured Crane Lift Plan can make the intricate process of planning a lift streamlined and compliant. This essential documentation can be the difference between a smooth operation and potential complications.
  • Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS): SafetyDocs has a collection of SWMS tailored to different crane operations, ensuring you’re covered whether you’re operating a tower crane, overhead bridge/gantry crane, mini crane, or a mobile crane.
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): These guidelines are instrumental in providing a consistent approach to crane operations. For specific procedures, consider the SOPs for crane bridge gantry and dogman operations.

Staying informed and equipped with the right tools is not only a matter of compliance but also a commitment to the safety of everyone on site. Lean on SafetyDocs as your partner in ensuring every crane operation is conducted safely and efficiently. Make the choice today and elevate your operational standards.

Author - Craig Cruickshank is the HSEQ Manager and Senior Technical Advisor at SafetyDocs by SafetyCulture.

Craig comes from a construction and environmental background, with experience in both the private and public sectors and is passionate about making health and safety information easy to find and understand for everyone.

Learn more about Craig's work on LinkedIn

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Please note that the above information is provided as a comment only and should not be relied on as professional, legal or financial advice.

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