Each instance of crane failure is unique, however, they usually arise out of similar circumstances. While most common crane failures are unavoidable and occur because of prolonged use, incidents where a crane fails unexpectedly can be detrimental for business

Crane failures can result in:

  • Injury to employees
  • Damage to the crane and the surrounding environment
  • High cost of repair
  • Downtime.

That’s why we’ve listed the most common causes of crane failure to help make you aware of the steps you can take to prevent them, such as regular maintenance checks that will identify any issues before they become serious.

 

Electrical Faults in Cranes

One of the most common causes for crane failures is electrical faults. When a crane is constantly being used, it’s inevitable that certain components will become worn over time, which can lead to the crane’s failure.

The cause of electrical faults within cranes can be wide ranging and are often unpredictable, making it essential to ensure that all electrical parts of a crane are properly maintained and checked. 

Some common electrical faults include:

  • ‘Sticking’ or welded contacts

This could be when a contactor fails to energise, which is when the motor doesn’t start when commanded to; or because it fails to de-energise, which is when the motor won’t stop when the run command is removed.

To prevent this from happening, contacts should be inspected and cleaned regularly to make sure that they aren’t sticking.

  • Electronic component failures 

When a crane is being used consistently, it's possible that electronic components can fail. These include mechanical parts and electrical control and hydraulic system components.

To reduce the risk of failure, ensure that all electrical components are checked periodically.

 

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Misuse of equipment

The work of crane operators and their handling of loads must be monitored while the crane is being used. Any mishandling of a crane, or the swinging of its load can result in dangerous consequences. This can include severe injury or a structural collapse that could result in significant damage to the crane and its surroundings.

These are just some of the ways in which cranes are commonly mishandled:

  • Crane operators lifting loads at an angle rather than vertically can cause wear on ropes and result in swinging loads which are a safety hazard
  • Turning long items around using the pendant cable is misuse of the crane’s components and this can put a strain on the crane as a whole 
  • Employees not planning the routes for their mobile cranes properly, which can result in a crane crashing into another, which can cause serious damage
  • Ignoring recommended lift loads and attempting to lift too much weight can cause the crane to malfunction or tip over
  • Turning loads over and causing shock loads (excess speed during the time when the load is being lifted off the ground), can cause tension. Cranes are designed to lift loads steadily and gradually - they cannot withstand a sudden increase or decrease in load.

A lot of crane failures occur due to a misunderstanding of manufacturer’s statements/guidelines, so it’s important to remember that you do regular maintenance on all crane components - even if it isn’t explicitly stated to do so.

 

Worn components

Different components of a crane require frequent maintenance in order to work effectively. If this isn’t done it can cause excessive wear, which will eventually lead to a crane failure. 

Some items you should undertake regular maintenance on to avoid wear and tear are:

  • Gearboxes

If an oil leak occurs, or the gearbox has record of it happening in the past, then there is a chance that it will need replacing. This can be a time consuming and expensive task, so it is important to ensure that all gearboxes are checked regularly.

  • Brakes

Brakes naturally wear out over time and need to be inspected frequently. This is done to decide if they are still fit for purpose prior to use, in order to avoid unplanned downtime. 

  • Gearing and Bearings

These components require adequate lubrication in order to function efficiently. Grease is primarily used for wire ropes, rollers and plain bearings. Oil is used for the lubrication of ball bearings and the roller bearing of slewing and hoisting gears. If any of these components aren’t lubricated properly, they can cause a crane to fail.

  • Hoist ropes, chains and chain hoists

Hoist ropes and load chains also have to be lubricated properly or they can wear out -   a chain on a chain hoist can become damaged in only a few weeks if it isn’t lubricated. On top of this, hoist ropes start to break up and splinter if they become dry or rusty.

In order to keep these components working effectively, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and subject your cranes to frequent checks and periodic examinations.

Regular inspection and lubrication is the best form of preventative maintenance, as it can help ensure the safety of your employees, reduce costly downtime and extend the overall lifecycle of the equipment.

 

Reduce your crane failures with frequent inspections

Minimising the risk of crane failures is in the best interest of your business - it reduces downtime and increases productivity.

It is also a legal requirement for you to subject your cranes to frequent thorough inspections, where a crane inspector will inspect all the necessary components to ensure they are in full working order and the risk of crane failure is minimised completely. 

Hiring a competent inspection provider will ensure that you as a company have credibility and a defence against litigation, as well as reducing costs because properly inspected equipment is more reliable. 

To help you choose the best provider for your crane services, we’ve put together a short guide: How to select your crane service provider. In this guide, we have outlined all the questions you need to ask and everything you need to look out for from your inspection provider, from what accreditations they have to how they perform inspections.

 

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