If safety, profitability, and sustainability are the key results of lift plans, why aren’t more companies demanding it?
Jamison Fox, P.E., engineer and project manager at International Industrial Contracting Corporation (IICC) in the USA, understands the aspects of the engineering required for lift plans and the importance of recognising standards that apply to performing load-handling activities.
His take? To not properly plan for lifting operations today is a massive risk. “With the amount of resources available today, and the industry bringing light to proper planning and design of lifts, it simply doesn’t make sense not to,” he said.
Industry consensus standards ASME P30.1-2014, ASME B30.5-2018, and OSHA 6.29CFR1926.1400 in the USA all lay out criteria for preparing lift plans and have sections that cover the engineering aspects of lifts. That said, while engineering expertise isn’t always mandatory in a lift, in certain circumstances, it shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I don’t think everyone needs to have the capability in-house,” Fox said. “There is a way to get what you need and not have to pay for it every day. It just depends on what type of work you do, and how much of it you take on.”
Start with safety
In lift planning, safety – as always – is priority number one and, Fox believes, it’s a good place to begin. But how exactly does safety correlate to engineered lift plans? And how is it improved? Fox said that the quick answer to that question is that engineered lift plans allow companies to dot the “I”s and cross the “t”s.
“In my experience, you’re not setting yourself up for success [if you don’t have a lift plan],” Fox said. “When the prepared plan is executable and clear, the labourers can work more efficiently and get it done. There isn’t as much guesswork and the items that trip people up have been accounted for in advance. When you have less uncertainty, you should have more success. When the plan has holes, you never know how much time those holes will suck out of you. Having the load on the hook is not the time to find out the crane you just mobilised is not going to work. I’ve seen it happen enough to know that having a plan that works up front is well worth it.”
While safety is certainly number one, knowledge – or perhaps collective understanding – is number two. “When the labour force knows the plan and can follow the plan without having to second guess everything, you should be able to complete the job as expected— and be profitable doing it.”
Part of those expectations need to be ironed out at the beginning of the lift planning process. Managers need to key in on things like what is being lifted, what the load actually is, what the correct or available equipment to use is, what any site constraints are, where electrical hazards might be, if there are company safety standards that must be followed, and what the client is requiring the company to do.
“There are a lot of variables with this type of work,” Fox explained. “And taking chances can catch up to you. Just because it’s always worked in the past does not mean it’s going to work tomorrow.”
Taking his point further, Fox used concentrated loads as an example. “We have eighty-thousand-pound-capacity fork trucks that should not be driving on some supported slabs or a thin slab-on-grade. Gantry operations often result in loads to a supported floor that it was not designed for. An engineering review can make some things work that you wouldn’t think would work, as well as raise a red flag to say we need to look at this a different way.”
Fox also believes that when it comes to floor-load capacity, if someone isn’t checking it, they really have no idea what they’re in for. “A concrete slab from above is not always what it seems when you follow the load path,” he explained. “It’s a good habit to verify your floor conditions, since the load path needs to properly get from the hook or gantry into the supporting structure safely.”
Fox also believes that it’s important to know when to get someone else involved – if there isn’t someone with a level of expertise within the organisation. “You don’t want to be too far down a road without a way to get back to civilisation.”
Defining an engineered lift
Many companies, like Fox’s employer, IICC, are making their own corporate policies defining what constitutes a 100 percent engineered lift. In IICC’s case, the company states that lifts using gantry legs on press components, lifts over 75 percent of rigging or equipment capacity, and multi-piece lifts (two or more cranes, fork trucks, etc.) must use an engineered lift plan. To that end, IICC also defines what may require engineering involvement. That list encompasses jobs that include foundations, temporary shoring or falsework, lift beam or spreader design, complex rigging, force determination in rigging, centre of gravity determination, and multi-crane lifts.
As to why some companies choose not to go with an engineered lift plan if they don’t have to, Fox has some ideas. “When the customer demands it, you need to do it,” he said. “But even some of our customers who demand it don’t always follow through.” Fox also said that engineered lift plans look really good on paper in bid specifications but are sometimes not followed through with in practice. “Most companies who are comfortable in their ability would tell you they don’t need an engineer to tell them what they already know they can do,” he said. “Many times, they’re right.”
But it’s the times when they’re not right that are issues for Fox – and should be issues for everyone. “I know that for years,” Fox explained, “Many of the items I am now lift-planning were historically done by industry with just experience as the ‘engineer.’” What Fox means is that times have changed, and work practices have too. In some cases, what used to be commonplace isn’t acceptable anymore. Which brings Fox back to the idea of safety.
When companies first begin thinking about using an engineered lift plan, it’s fair to say that they may not understand the full scope of benefits. The safety benefits might be fairly apparent, but there are others, such as profitability and sustainability, that are also quantifiable. “Safety is fairly obvious,” Fox pointed out. “Following a proper plan and procedures… should result in a safe project.”
Safe projects, according to Fox, that are properly planned should, in turn, be profitable. Which isn’t a guarantee, of course, but it does stand to reason that the when the unknowns are minimised the costs are too. “And if you can make money and do it safely,” Fox concluded, “the process should be sustainable and provide for future work.”
Fox presented Engineered Lift Plans for A to Z at SC&RA’s 2018 Crane & Rigging Workshop. The 2019 Crane & Rigging Workshop is scheduled for 18-20 September in Glendale, Arizona, USA.