Anyone who’s ever worked on site at a material handling operation of any size knows that safety is paramount. Not just the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that the workers use, but every aspect of the operation needs to be safe, well-maintained, and used properly. This starts from the initial installation of your equipment and continues through its useful life. Testing the load capacity of your gantry crane is a critical process for ensuring the safety of your workplace and workforce, and should be carried out at the recommended intervals throughout the life of the crane.
A gantry crane load test procedure is required by safety regulations to ensure your crane is installed correctly and according to the design specifications. A load test should be carried out when the gantry is installed prior to usage and after any repairs to the gantry unit. The test includes a pre-operational check as well as periodic inspections.
When you’re talking about crane safety and load capacity, there are no shortcuts, workarounds, or cheat codes. Learn about the load test process in this article and what steps are needed to ensure that all your bases are covered, and that your crane system can handle the intended weight capacity for any of its functions.
What is a Crane Load Test?
A crane load test is performed to verify that your crane will safely perform within its designated functions while carrying a test load of 110% to 125% of the equipment’s rated capacity.
When load testing a crane, the test load must be 110% or up to 125% if recommended by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or crane inspector. The weight of the test load itself even needs to be certified prior to testing, and each phase of the crane's functions should be dynamically tested. Subsequently, all the findings in the load test and all the relevant reports should be kept on file for the lifetime of the equipment.
Why Do We Do Load Testing?
Crane load testing is a requirement with any crane system, as it is integral to the safety of anyone working within the periphery of the crane; it is not optional. Periodic and consistent testing is required by the Health and Safety law of New Zealand.
Regular inspections help to minimise the risk of major accidents or fatalities, as well as helping to avoid major expenses due to repairing or replacing failing equipment.
When Should Cranes Be Load Tested?
All gantry cranes require load testing to confirm the ability of the crane to safely operate as intended. The load test procedure should be carried out whenever the lifting equipment is installed, repaired, or modified. Design modifications or structural changes need to be verified before they are implemented to ensure the integrity of the crane.
On an annual basis, visual and operational inspections should be carried out to assess the general condition of all cranes so they can be certified for continued safe operation. Load testing is performed when the gantry is installed prior to usage and after any repairs to the gantry unit.
What is a Proof Load Test of a Crane?
A proof load test is a type of load test that confirms the capability of a load bearing structure to handle its rated load without failure or deformation. A proof load test is carried out by placing force up to 125% of the load capacity of the crane for a specific duration of time and under dynamic conditions to determine whether the load capacity is as stated by the OEM.
The use of large water bags to perform the proof load test were developed in order to verify a load and to mitigate problems associated with using solid testing weights. The floor space below the crane may not be able to handle the weight of solid testing equipment, therefore water based weights are rigged to the crane and filled with water. In these instances, certified weights or a load indicating device such as a dynamometer or load cell is used.
Who Can Load Test a Crane?
Cranes should be load tested by an appropriate Inspector who has the credentials and experience to properly evaluate and assess the crane’s operability. If a gantry crane has only two electrical movements (Up/Down), the inspection can be conducted by a “competent” person. They will then issue appropriate certificates to certify the safe functions of the crane.
Initial load tests are required to have an Inspector conduct a visual inspection prior to initiating the test. The process of load testing includes both a pre–operational inspection and a periodic inspection.
A pre-operational check includes assessing the equipment prior to operation to determine any deficiencies or damage that may impact the safe operation of the crane. Key areas for evaluation are:
- Checking all emergency controls
- Checking the equipment for out-of-order signs
- Confirming all motions align with control device markings
- Checking for damage or deformities on the hook and latch
- Checking for abnormalities in the wire rope or chain, ensuring it is not broken, kinked, twisted, or distorted
- Checking brakes are in good condition
- Confirming all the switches and limits function correctly
- Ensuring there are no unusual sounds
A periodic inspection is performed once the load test is complete. It is a highly detailed evaluation of the crane and hoist equipment and includes a comprehensive examination of structural and mechanical components. It requires a review of all the following:
- End trucks
- Foot walks
- Trolley frames
Additionally, intensive inspection of any damage to the following should be carried out:
- Transmission components
- Runway structures
- Below the hook devices
- Electrical components
- Connection points
- Trolley and runway rail
- End stops
- Covers and guards
What is a Crane Safety Checklist?
Every workplace with an operational crane system should have a crane safety checklist. This checklist ensures that your crane equipment is safe for use and compliant with all the legal regulations and standards governing crane use. Ticking off each checklist item requirement ensures consistency and safe operation.
When a crane has already been certified for use, annual visual and operational inspections are conducted to ensure the various components are still in optimal condition for safe functioning. There are many aspects of the crane system that are evaluated to ensure the crane remains safe for continued operation, including the following:
- crane documentation, including certified rating sheets marked with the crane unique identifier and serial number
- maintenance and repair records including any new rope, chain, hook or hook block certificates
- operation of crane to be demonstrated
- general condition of crane structure including fastenings
- coatings condition (e.g. paint), markings and labels
- general wear and tear
- conditions of welded joints
- sheaves and bearings
- safety guarding drums and locking pawls gearing
- rope anchors and dead ends
- hooks, hook blocks and swivel bearings
Once you have conducted the pre-operation check and the periodic inspection, be sure to assess the post-job operation to assess the crane system and be sure it can remain safely unattended, while providing final recommendations to the crane operators, to improve crane safety for the future.
When should a performance test for hoisting equipment be done?
All crane components and essential functions should be tested on an annual basis. Further information can be found from the Department of Labour’s Health & Safety publication, Approved Code of Practice for Cranes.
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