ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Cranes are a marvel of engineering. But, overhead crane accidents cause around 175 severe injuries and nearly 45 fatalities every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Overhead cranes are an essential component of our day-to-day operations here at Anniston Army Depot, as we rely on them to lift and transport materials and components.Operating a crane takes extensive training and employees must follow standards to ensure the crane, the operator and those in the surrounding area are safe.Crane safety is an important component of overall workplace safety. Done correctly, it can mean the difference between mission success, production delays, personnel injury or life and death, in many cases.All workplace safety is important; but crane safety, in particular, is critical, because of how devastating accidents related to cranes can be.Crane operators, and those working around them, should learn the most common crane hazards for the type of crane they operate.Analysis of overhead crane accidents reveals many common safety hazards each workplace using overhead lift systems should be aware of, to keep employees safe.Understanding the hazards associated with cranes, and being aware of these risks, will help ensure everyone is watching out for them and taking steps to avoid them whenever possible.Following are some hazards all employees involved in lifting operations should take into account, because of how frequently they can occur and how serious accidents can be:• Pre-Use Operational Inspection - Making sure that the crane, rigging, rigging hardware and attachment points are in proper working order before lifting is essential. If anything is not working correctly, it can cause serious accidents and injuries to those in the area. Please refer to the Crane Daily Pre-Use Inspection Checklist for a list of items which must be inspected and be in a satisfactory condition prior to operating any crane or hoist.• Crane/Rigging Movement (pinch points) - Cranes often need to twist, adjust and move to get the load and rigging where it needs to go. This can create pinch or crush points where someone could be seriously injured. Know where your feet and hands are at all times. Operators must communicate with the signal person to ensure all personnel are clear of pinch points.• Improper Lifting Techniques/Damaged Rigging – Choosing the proper size of rigging, the proper hitch and working within the proper load angle factors will reduce the chance of overloading or causing damage to the rigging. Do not use damaged or out-of-service rigging.• Dropped Loads - If a crane drops its load, whatever is under it will be crushed and the object dropped could be damaged, putting a delay in the production process. No one should work directly under a crane load for any reason, even with PPE. Keeping non-essential personnel clear of the suspended load at all times will reduce the chance of injury if the load shifts, swings or drops unintentionally.• Materials Falling - Every load a crane lifts needs to be properly secured and free of loose parts and tools. Even when a load is secure, there is always a risk of something falling off. Employees below the crane should avoid working in the area and be aware of the suspended load while it is moving.• Crane Overloading - Cranes can lift an astounding amount of weight, but there are limits. Crane operators and those who load the crane need to know precisely how much weight it can handle and exactly how much weight they have added or are lifting at any given time. Overloading a crane can cause it to tip over, cause structural damage or cause a loss of load, which all can have devastating consequences.• Side Pull - This is one of the most common mistakes made with overhead cranes. Hoists and cranes are designed to lift straight up and lower straight down only. Side pulls cause a number of dangerous conditions.First, the wire rope often comes out of its grooves and “scrubs” against the remaining rope or drum, resulting in damaged rope. Sometimes the rope actually jumps the drum and tangles itself around the shaft, resulting in stress to the rope.In addition, side pulls cause stress in unintended ways even worse than rope problems. In a somewhat oversimplified example, a bridge beam, taller than it is wide, is lifted with a side pull. Pulling at a 45-degree angle would put equal lateral and vertical stresses on the crane, potentially causing bridge beam failure, even with weight only half of the rated capacity.Supervisors, leads, safety monitors and all lifting personnel should be aware of, and take into account, the above information to prevent misuse, mishandling, and unsafe lifting practices.All personnel onsite have the right to give a “Stop” signal to the operator if they see something unsafe or dangerous.These hazards are not all-inclusive of the hazards associated with cranes.It is the responsibility of supervisors to ensure crane operators retain certification, follow all safe work practices and correct unsafe lifting habits.Look at it this way: certification is like having a driver’s license for a car. Just because you have a driver’s license, doesn’t mean you are a good driver.It all comes down to having a culture and mindset of safety. The most important reason for any crane safety program is saving lives and ensuring that every lift is successful.When operators take time to ensure every lift is made without error, the efficiency of your lift team becomes the greatest component of your productivity.