ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala -- At Anniston Army Depot, you must be mindful of your work environment at all times. In some buildings and facilities, you must keep your head on a swivel and occasionally look up!
In the Nichols Industrial Complex, high level cranes move vehicles to various work stations inside the Combat Vehicle Repair Facility. These cranes, with a load capacity of 20-60 tons, are annually inspected by the Directorate of Production Engineering and the operator is required to complete a daily pre-operation inspection.
In order to operate a high level crane, one must become licensed through classroom training and operate the crane through on the job training. According to Shawn Ankerich, safety and occupational health specialist, new training is on the horizon for fiscal year 2022. Employees will be required to take classroom training and complete 40 hours of on-the-job training with a mentor. This mentor, who is an experienced high level crane operator, will teach the individual the fundamentals of high level crane operation. Then, they will be required to pass a written examination at the Motor Pool, followed by passing an operational exam. The individual must successfully operate the crane in an “obstacle course” setting.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires the operators to be re-certified every five years, but the depot’s requirements are different, said Ankerich. "In an effort to continue to reach our goal with the OSHA Challenge Program and to help achieve VPP Status, we prefer to go above and beyond the OSHA minimum requirements and take extra safety measures since we are lifting heavy loads or making lifts in congested and tight quarters.” he said. “The goal is to have our crane operators become the "best of the best" and keep safety minded operators at the forefront of these lifting operations.” The depot's training documentation records are used as certification and the license is issued to give the operator authorization to operate the crane.
Upon becoming licensed, the operator must be trained in fall protection as well as be fitted with a safety harness as part of his or her personal protective equipment. In order to reach the cab of a high level crane, the operator must climb two sets of OHSA approved access ladders. These ladders are annually inspected by DPE. Each set of ladders has a cable system the operator must attach to his/her custom-fitted harness in order to prevent a fall. Operators must go through additional fall protection training, which includes classroom instruction regarding the Descender Rescue Pack located in the cab of the crane. This rescue pack is designed as part of an Emergency Rescue Plan in the event of a power failure, fire, or severe weather situation. The operator can attach his or her custom-fitted harness to the descender rescue pack and lower themselves to the ground.
Among the crane operator’s teammates who work on the shop floor, a ground guide is critical. The ground guide must remain in a clear line of sight for the operator, communicate effectively with the operator, and ensure they secure the hook to the proper position on the vehicle. All of these elements require teamwork. High level crane operator David Ivey understands how important his team is in maintaining a safe work environment. “Good ground guides are important,” said Ivey. “A crane requires a lot of responsibility, but if you operate it safely and properly then you can do the job.” Prior to lifting a vehicle, an operator must ensure the crane hoist is secured to the vehicle, the hoist must be centered over the vehicle, and the hoist straps must be tight. If the straps are not tight then the vehicle will begin to swing when lifted, which could lead to an accident.
Billy Thomas, supervisor of the Directorate of Production’s Vehicle Machining Branch spoke about the workforce’s familiarity with high level cranes, “I have a pretty good crew. Most of them have 15 to 16 years of experience and they know what to do.”
When the work is complete, the ground guide reattaches the hoist hooks to the crane, the operator retracts the hooks to be flush at the top of the crane, and the crane is parked in a specific dock.
Some of you may wonder if a crane operator stays in the cab all day and the answer is no. The operators are allowed to climb down when they need a break. For more information or if you have questions about the cranes and lifting techniques, you can contact the Safety Office at Ext. 3072 to speak with the Crane and Material Handling Program Manager.