Protecting Workers from Injury During Crane Setup

In this article published in the October 2018 edition of The Utility Source, DICA CEO, Kris Koberg, talks about construction safety guidelines to protect workers from injury during equipment setup, with an emphasis on the use and selection of outrigger pads and crane pads.  The Utility Source_DICA Outrigger Pads


In crane operations, we usually assume the crane is doing all the heavy lifting. But according to an OSHA Safety Tips Sheet developed by the Construction Roundtable of OSHA’s Alliance Program, improper manual handling of material contributes to many strains and sprains, which make up one-third of non-fatal injuries in construction.

Manual lifting tasks for crane setup often includes handling outrigger pads, crane pads, cribbing, rigging, and tools. It is a good idea to identify existing problems by reviewing injury logs and workers’ compensation records. This combined with observing workplace conditions and work processes will help you identify typical risk factors.

During crane setup, those risks might include exerting excessive force, working in awkward postures, or exposing hands to being pinched or caught between items. According to NIOSH in its Simple Solutions, Ergonomics for Construction Workers document, “Simple changes can make a big difference. Using ergonomic ideas to improve tools, equipment, and jobs reduces workers’ contact with those factors that can result in injury.”

DICA SafetyTech Outrigger Pads Lift and Access

Each year, one of the leading casuses of workman’s comp claims in the crane industry is an injury that’s the result lifting heavy and awkward items, such as outrigger pads and cribbing.

Protecting backs

In the crane industry, one of the leading causes of workman’s comp claims each year are caused by lifting heavy and awkward items such as outrigger pads and cribbing. There’s not a straightforward answer to how much weight a person can safely lift, however, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has published recommended weight limits that vary depending on several factors. Those include:

  • How far away from the body and how high the object is being lifted
  • How far the person must carry the object
  • How much body rotation is required to lift and place the object
  • How often and how long the object must be lifted

In recognition of this issue, DICA® has focused on designing its products with positive ergonomic features, to minimize both the weight of its products, and the amount of lifting necessary when using them. DICA’s SafetyTech® Outrigger Pads have received six patents in the U.S. and Canada for the ergonomic features of its pad and handle combinations.

Engineered thermoplastic products are typically a more ergonomic alternative to wood outrigger pads. Because of thicknesses required, wood typically weigh more than SafetyTech Outrigger Pads. As an organic porous material, wood pads can nearly double in weight when exposed to moisture, and come with other risks such as splinters, sharp corners, and non-ergonomic handles. Wood pads typically have a shorter life span that requires frequent replacement.  Engineered thermoplastic SafetyTech Outrigger Pads are not porous, they will not absorb water or any chemicals, and they will not splinter or break under stress.  Recessed ergonomic TuffGrip® Handles and round pad shapes, allow for DICA’s pads to be easily be lifted, slid, or rolled into place, reducing the potential for injuries to occur.

DICA SafetyTech Outrigger Pads Lift and Access

Workers should roll round pads into place by standing the pad on edge and positioning yourself to the back of side of the pad, carefully rolling the pad to the intended location.

Regardless of pad choice, when moving heavy or large objects, workers should use their legs as the primary source of lifting power and not their back. If your pads are round, roll the pads into place by standing the pad on edge, and position yourself to the back or side of the pad, and carefully roll the pad to the intended location. To safely place the pad into position, either lower the pad into place or allow the pad to fall away from you onto its intended location. If dropping the pad in place, verify all personnel are a safe distance away from where the pad will be placed. Once the area is clear, allow the pad to fall away and drop into place. If two workers are lowering the pad in unison, slowly lower the pad by bending at the knees while maintaining a flat back until the pad is positioned.

A major challenge for RT crane users is adequate storage and transport options for crane pads. Typically crane pads are stored on the deck of the crane that can be more than 5 feet off the ground. For these cranes, consider using a rack (see DICA’s Outrigger Pad Rack) or other storage options and avoid storing pads in locations that are higher than waist high. Having to lift heavy objects, such as outrigger pads and cribbing to a location above waist high is inviting injuries to occur.

When handling larger materials, such as DICA’s FiberMax® Crane Pads, the use of mechanized lifting equipment is required. DICA offers three rigging hardware options to simplify rigging and material handling. D-Rings and Crosby® Pivot Links provide designated lifting points, and a Stack & Pin option secures all four mats together for lifting as a single unit. The Stack & Pin option simplifies load securement for transportation and storage purposes and is a favorite of FiberMax owners.

Protecting hands

Placement of smaller outrigger pads is primarily a manual task. Protecting workers hands from impact injuries, including broken bones, pinching and bruising, is the intention of many impact-resistant work gloves. Many products designed to be impact-resistant feature Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) or Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) and proprietary foams. However, no standard currently exists regarding glove design. That will change with the expected 2018 release of U.S. voluntary standard ISEA 138. The standard will focus on establishing industry-accepted test criteria to measure the reduction of peak impact force across the hand, and a set of classifications to enable users to select gloves suited to their work environments.

Protecting hands was a primary objective for DICA in developing its Patented TuffGrip® Handle System. TuffGrip Handles minimize finger pinching common to handles because of materials that are too rigid. Because TuffGrip Handles are larger in diameter and made from comfortable and strong, yet flexible engineered thermoplastic material they reduce pinching and fatigue often found by rope, cable or chain handles. In addition, the recessed TuffGrip Handles on round SafetyTech Outrigger Pads don’t extend beyond the perimeter of the pads edge, allowing for safe and easy rolling of the pads. This design gives the operator the option of not carrying the pad at all.

When stacking crane pads for storage, Corner Cribbing found on FiberMax Crane Pads eliminates the need for operators to place temporary cribbing between each pad. This makes stacking the pads using a forklift more efficient and eliminates pinch hazards between stacked mats.

Reducing tripping hazards

High-Viz clothing is common worn on job sites, and several standards and OSHA interpretations provide guidance on what construction workers should wear. In the same way, products that might pose tripping hazards are often designed in bright colors and with non-slip surfaces.

Many SafetyTech® Outrigger Pads can be ordered in Hi-Viz yellow and orange to provide a clear visual reminder to think and act safely when setting up equipment on outrigger pads. Hi-Visibility yellow and orange contrasts with the ground and paved surfaces, to more clearly identify the pads as a possible tripping hazard and make them easier for crews to find in low light conditions. FiberMax® Crane Pads are manufactured with Hi-Viz orange frames, corner reflective hazard tape, and Hi-Viz yellow non-slip surfaces.

Read more about how to improve ergonomics in in the work place here.

Kris Koberg is CEO of DICA, Guthrie Center, Iowa. The company has been specializing in building a better outrigger pad since 1988. By creating engineered solutions for improving equipment stability and ergonomic safety, DICA is leading the way in product innovation for outrigger pads, crane pads, and cribbing.

DICA outrigger pads and crane pads are used in 40 countries around the world in construction, maintenance, electrical utility, oil and gas and tree care as well as local, state and federal government agencies.