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Lifting People Safely

Cautionary Note: This article is limited to information of interest to Riggers regarding the safe lifting of personnel. It is not intended as a complete coverage of OSHA rules and restrictions for cranes and derricks and crane operator actions during the course of lifting personnel.

During the course of rigging operations, Riggers often encounter the situation in which people become the load. It is worthwhile to know the rules for lifting personnel. While the primary responsibility of personnel safety lies with the lift supervisor and the hoist operator, the Rigger nevertheless must be completely knowledgeable of the rigging dos and don'ts of personnel lifting.

Is It Really Necessary? 

A significant risk is involved for personnel being hoisted by means of cranes or derricks. For this reason, OSHA rules prohibit the lifting of personnel unless no safe alternative exists. Put another way, unless a conventional means of transportation of people is not feasible, or unless alternative ways are more hazardous, personnel shall not be hoisted. Bottom line, the lifting of personnel must be limited.

OSHA stresses that employee safety, not convenience or opportunity, must be the basis for the selection of a method to transport personnel.

Federal laws are published in a collection of codified documents known as the Code of Federal Regulations, CFR for short. The details we as Riggers are interested in are in the Labor section, Title 29, Part 1926 – Safety and Health Regulations for Construction. Personnel platforms that are suspended from the load line are covered by section 1926.550(g).

Riding The Load

Any hoisting, lowering, swinging, or movement of object or material loads with anyone directly on the load or hook is generally prohibited. There are special exceptions to this rule however.1  In lieu of a personnel platform, a boatswain's chair with a design factor of (5) five  can be used to slowly hoist one person at a time wearing a personal fall protection full body harness, during strictly controlled and signaled ascents and descents. The exceptional lift situations are:

Rigging A Personnel Platform

Before any personnel are lifted, the Rigger must perform the following steps:

Mousing: The act of wrapping a wire or rope around a hook to cover the hook opening, is expressly prohibited.

When a wire rope bridle is used to connect a personnel platform to the load line, the Rigger must ensure that the bridle legs are connected to the master link or shackle, such that the load is evenly positioned among the bridle legs. Bridles and associated rigging used for attaching the personnel platform to the hoist line cannot be used for any other purpose, at any time.

The hoisting of a personnel platform must be conducted in a slow, controlled, safe manner, with no sudden movements of the platform. Tag lines must be used when necessary to control the movement of the platform. In order to safely lift personnel, good judgment must be exercised with regard to weather and wind conditions.

Platforms that are not landed on level ground, or a stable base, present additional risks to personnel entering and exiting the platform. Unlanded platforms must be secured to the stationary structure where work is being performed.

Weight Limits and Design Factors 

The combined weight of the loaded personnel platform and its rigging must not exceed 50% of the rated capacity of hoisting equipment for the radius and configuration of the equipment. Personnel platforms must exhibit a design factor of (5) five. [See the article entitled Understanding Rigging Design Factors for a complete explanation of design factors]. They must be designed by a qualified Engineer or a qualified person competent in structural design.

1 CFR 1926.1431