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Safety First: A Guide to Rigging Hand Signals 


In the high-stakes world of rigging, clear communication is paramount. Enter hand signals - a reliable and universal way for crane operators and riggers to work together safely and efficiently.

Why Hand Signals?

  • Simple and Effective: No fancy equipment needed, minimizing complexity and potential malfunctions.
  • Crystal Clear Communication: Visual cues overcome language barriers and ensure everyone's on the same page.
  • Universal Language: Standardized hand signals eliminate confusion, promoting safety across different crews.

Standardization and Regulations:

  • OSHA regulations reference ANSI standards for specific hand signals based on the crane type in use. The employer must display these signals at the job site (29 CFR 1926.550).
  • ANSI/ASME B30.5 establishes a recommended set of 18 hand signals, including a designated "Lift Director" who oversees the operation and appoints a qualified signal person. You can view these standard signals here: (http://www.msha.gov/accident_prevention/tips/handsignals.pdf)

Key Rigging Hand Signals:

  • Emergency Stop: Extend both arms with palms down, then swing them back and forth horizontally.
  • Stop: Extend one arm with palm down, then move it back and forth horizontally.
  • Hoist: Raise your forearm vertically with your index finger pointing up, then make small circles with your hand.
  • Lower: Extend your arm down with your index finger pointing down, then make small circles with your hand.
  • Other signals: The standard covers various actions like boom movement, travel, and specific hoist use.

Rigging Hand Signal Best Practices:

  • Always use a signalperson trained in standard hand signals.
  • Maintain clear visibility between the signal person, crane operator, and load.
  • The signal person acts as a safety watch, ensuring a clear work zone.
  • Only designate one signal person per lift for clear communication.
  • Distinctive clothing for the signal person helps with easy identification.

Remember: Consistent use of proper hand signals is a cornerstone of safe and efficient rigging operations. By following these guidelines, riggers can minimize misunderstandings and ensure everyone goes home safely