Employment Opportunities for Crane Operators and Riggers

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Employment Opportunities for Crane Operators and Riggers

Becoming a crane operator in the construction industry is easier said than done. Crane Operators hold many responsibilities on a construction site. Common duties include: handling equipment, performing moves, collaborating with other workers, using remote consoles, lifting heavy objects, settling loads and more. At the core of this position, should be an operator who loves the equipment they run. Because the equipment needs to operate at peak performance, an operator should be familiar with the nuts and bolts of the machine - the better you know your machines the easier it is to prevent breakdowns.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for construction companies to find skilled labor. In fact, a recent study shows that understaffed construction companies experienced negative impacts, including:

  • Inability to bid on work
  • Lose out to competition
  • Decrease in company growth

A Career in Crane Operation

Working at a construction company as a crane operator has many benefits, including salary, job growth, and the ability to immediately start in the workforce after leaving school. Professionals can enter this trade skill at any time without the need of a degree. Certifications aren’t always necessary, but can help expand your career in the crane operating trade. This means that you can start making money immediately without spending tens of thousands of dollars on schooling.

Learn more about the growing need for qualified crane operators below:

Crane Service, Inc: Finding and Retaining Crane Operators & Riggers

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As a trained operator, you want to work for a company you can be proud of. There are several construction companies looking for skilled professionals, but what are the qualities you should be looking for?

What Sets A Construction/Crane Company Apart From The Others?

  • Location, Location, Location — Many companies only cover small geographic areas, usually the area surrounding their town or city. This can limit the amount of jobs available for a crane operator, since there is a limited area to cover. There are companies, however, who cover larger geographical areas by having locations across different states and regions in order to give crane operators more job opportunities and room to grow. Larger companies allow you to switch between various branch locations without losing the momentum of your job, so that you won’t be thrown to a lower paying position for moving.
  • Job Length — Smaller companies often handle smaller projects, which means they are either over quickly or crane operators are only needed for a small portion of the job. Some companies cover long-term projects, which often offer more money for operators and riggers.
  • It's All in the Machines — Companies with modern fleets have a large advantage over their competitors when it comes to bidding for jobs. Modern equipment allows crane operators to work with the most advanced technology in the construction industry, and also ensures your safety as an operator.
  • Room to Grow — Companies that advance are the companies that value their employees. Starting as a mechanic or operator trainee is a great entry point that often leads to upward mobility to higher, better paying positions and sometimes the opportunity to run a branch or division of the company.
  • Benefits — As stated in the infographic, many companies are working on offering the best compensation and benefits packages in order to ensure that they’re operators are taken care of. Benefits can range anywhere from competitive salaries, investment opportunities, health coverage and paid vacation.

As a leader in the heavy rigging industry since 1960 with various locations in New Mexico and Texas, Crane Service Inc. offers on-the-job training, internal promotions, and competitive benefits . With a massive fleet, the highest safety standards, and an in-depth knowledge of equipment, we welcome anyone who is interested in joining the crane operation trade. Visit our careers page for more information.

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Crane Operator Hand Signal Guide

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On construction sites, one of the most important jobs is that of the signal person. Sometimes known as the signal man, this individual is responsible for signaling the crane and giving the operator orders that pertain to the lift. In order to accurately and safely direct crane operators, the signal person must know and understand the relevant signals used in 1926 regulations.

Additionally, just like the machine operator, they must understand the operations and limitations of the equipment they’re directing, including the crane dynamics involved in swinging, raising, lowering loads, stopping loads, and boom deflection.

While radio and other means of electronic communication with an operator are acceptable, using hand signals are the most effective and reliable way of communication. Electronic methods communication could potentially fail to work, leaving the operator and the on-ground director without means to understand one another or give direction. When using radios or other methods, it must be through a dedicated channel so there is no interference.

Successful communication between the signalman and the operator relies on both individuals fully understanding all hand signals used. Find below examples of standard hand signals used to control mobile crane operations.

Crane Service, Inc. Crane Operating Signal Guide

Using hand signals are a huge advantage on a worksite for communication. There are a variety of ways in which hand signals provide a greater benefit than other methods, such as:

  • Clarity — Standard hand signals minimize ambiguity, as the signal person can only “speak” using signals, or a combination of signals, directly related to the crane controls.
  • Speed — Visual signals are immediate. With any skilled signal person, they develop the ability to signal faster than the human tongue can form words.
  • Distance — Unless using radio or electronic communication, which can be delayed, verbal directions across distances can be easily misheard or misunderstood depending on distance. Hand signals eliminate this issue.
  • Noise — Noise levels at construction sites can be overwhelming with many machines operating at once, leaving verbal communication at a minimum, not to mention, most workers wear head protection that includes ear plugs/covers. Hand signals don’t rely on the operator hearing the signal person.

The signal person and their ability to properly use hand signals is imperative on job sites. Oftentimes, the signal man becomes the eyes of the operator. It’s common for the operator not to be able to see the load they’re moving and if they can see it, then it’s typically blocking the sight line of where the load needs to travel.

Conduct of crane operators is outlined by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME B30.17-1992). This conduct promotes the safe operation of overhead crane systems, instructing crane operators to remain focused on the safe operation of the overhead crane system they’re running by not engaging in practices that could cause diverted attention.

According to OSHA regulations, a signal person must be present on the job site when the load or area near the load is not in full view of the operator, when the equipment will need to move throughout the job and the direction of movement is obstructed, or when the operator or site manager believes a signal person should be present because of site safety conditions.

To safely direct a load, a qualified signal person must be able to know the types of signals used at the work site, competently communicate signals, and know the specifics of the crane equipment they’re working with—such as its limitations and all dynamics involved in crane and boom movement and lifting.

To assure success in all operations, adhere to the following guidelines when using a signal person:

  • All lifts should employ a qualified signal person with knowledge of standard hand signals
  • Ensure that the signal person and the driver/operator agree on hand signals before beginning
  • The signal person should always maintain visual contact with the driver
  • Drivers/operators should stop movement immediately if they lose sight of the signal person
  • Provide the signal person with high-visibility clothing, especially during night operations

While operating sites are restricted areas and are often outside work sites, cranes can still be utilized in industrial environments. These environments can be busy places with multiple obstructions or where visibility is low. This is one of the most important reasons why both the crane operator and the signal person are fully aware of their surroundings at all times in order to safely and effectively operate an overhead lift system. Industrial environments can differ from average work sites and OSHA 1926.1425 says:

  • The crane operator must be able to communicate with all workers at all times
  • Background noises must be kept to a minimum so voices can be heard
  • Radio controls must be employed to insure 100 percent communication if voice commands cannot be heard due to background noise or distance
  • All workers must be able to fluently speak and understand and communicate in one chosen language
  • ASME states that signals must be fully discernible or audible to the operator
    • If your operator cannot hear workers on the factory floor at all times—even if audibility is only slightly hindered—hand signals should be implemented.

Most accidents happen as a result of misunderstood or misinterpreted hand signals. Both operator and signalman must take the time to study and memorize the necessary signals. To help your employees learn, as well as review, these signals, we’ve taken the time to create animated figures demonstrating each of the main signals associated with equipment operations and movement on a construction work site.

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