Four Primary Methods Of Signaling When Crane Operating

Cranes are the most effective way to move heavy loads on a construction site, and proper use of crane hand signals is a vital part of safe operation. After learning basic crane hand signals, a signal person is able to safely direct a crane operator to raise and lower the boom, hoist and lower the load, or move the load horizontally — and, of course, to stop the crane in case of emergency.

Importantly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that anyone designated as a signal person must meet certain qualifications and be evaluated by a qualified individual. These regulations and a commitment to standardized signals have helped reshape the landscape of crane safety, with crane-related deaths falling to their lowest recorded level in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


A crane operator often needs a signal person to operate safely. A signal person must be provided:

  • When the point of operation, meaning the path the load travels or the area where the load is placed, is not in full view of the operator;
  • When the equipment is traveling and the operator’s view in the direction of travel is obstructed; or
  • When, due to site-specific safety concerns, either the operator or the person handling the load determines that it is necessary.

During operations requiring signals, the ability to transmit signals between the operator and signal person must be maintained. If that ability is interrupted at any time, the operator must safely stop operations until signal transmission is reestablished and a proper signal is given and understood.

Only one person may give signals to a crane/derrick at a time, though any person may give an emergency stop signal.

Methods Of Signaling When Crane Operating

Hand, voice, audible, or new signals are allowed. The type of signals used and means of transmitting the signals to the operator (such as direct line of sight, video, radio, etc.), must be appropriate for the site conditions. All directions given to the operator by the signal person must be given from the operator’s perspective.

1. Hand Signals

This is the most common method of signaling on worksites. When using hand signals, the Standard Method must be used.

Hand signal charts must be either posted on the equipment or conspicuously posted in the vicinity of the hoisting operation.

2. Voice Signals

These are signals given by oral communication, with or without amplification or electronic transmission. If this type of signal is used, the operator, signal person, and lift director (if there is

one) must, before beginning operations, contact each other and agree on the voice signals that will be used.

3. Audible Signals

These are signals made by a distinct sound or series of sounds, such as sounds made by a bell, horn, or whistle. As with other types of signals, the signal person and operator must clearly understand the meaning of the signals being used.

4. New Signal Methods

If appropriate, new methods for signaling may be used such as video monitoring, as long as it meets all OSHA requirements for signaling.

In conclusion, crane hand signals are an essential part of the safe and effective operation on a construction site. The signal person and the operator must clearly understand the different signaling methods. When used correctly, these signals can help prevent accidents and fatalities while keeping everyone on the worksite safe. All employers should ensure that their operators and signal persons are thoroughly trained in safely using hand signals and other signaling methods. Furthermore, employers must ensure that all workers exposed to crane-related hazards follow all safety protocols and regulations set by OSHA when working near a crane. This can help create an environment freeing everyone from injury or harm.

About Badar Javed

I have worked in the safety industry for more than 10 years, collaborating with different organizations to establish and supervise safety protocols. My expertise covers a broad spectrum, from construction sites to oil refineries, and I have personally witnessed how safety measures safeguard both employees and customers.

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