Bo Collier is the owner and president of Crane Tech, LLC and an NCCCO Commissioner and member of numerous NCCCO committees. His passion for safety through education is integrated into all the programs and services Crane Tech offers, including all levels of rigging courses. For more information, visit cranetech.com.
How qualified are your riggers for the work they are doing? Between 65 and 75 percent of all personnel on a construction site with a strap in their back pocket are helpers and not rigging decision makers. When you consider that possibly 7 out of every 10 riggers on your site may not have the knowledge necessary to be doing the work they actually end up doing—such as selecting gear and determining how to attach it to a load—it’s a little frightening.
When OSHA released the revised construction crane standard (1926 Subpart CC), their requirement for riggers was that they be “qualified.” This qualification is based on having the documented training, knowledge and skills required to do the work they are assigned. While OSHA does not categorize riggers into levels, they do specify that a rigger must be a qualified person, and the definition of this can feel pretty ambiguous at times.
Finding the Right Rigger
You wouldn’t assign a rigger with only a basic understanding of the trade (what I call a Rigger Level I) the task of calculating the center of gravity and rigging a non-symmetrical object without proper supervision—it would be a set up for failure. Instead, you would have a more qualified person (Rigger Level II) perform the calculations and instruct the Level l Rigger on what gear is required and where/how to place the gear. Consider Rigger Level II as your safety check—the person who has the necessary knowledge to keep the job moving safely. If 7 out of 10 are not Level II, this leaves you with three who are capable of supervising the rigging activities of your crew.
So who are these Level I Riggers? They are qualified persons who should be able to recognize damage to slings and hardware, read and understand load rating markings, gather the proper rigging as directed, and safely rig a load under the guidance of someone with more knowledge. They have received basic training that will improve safety and reliability, however, the necessary calculations and placement of slings and hardware must be handled by a more qualified, Level II Rigger.
The Level II Rigger has demonstrated Level I knowledge and skills, but has also received education beyond the basic level and knows how to calculate sling angle stress and how to find the center of gravity. They understand the critical nature of rigging non-symmetrical loads and can identify the consequences of rigging below a vertical center of gravity and much more. This individual could be considered an Intermediate or Journeyman Rigger.
When lifts involve more complex variables, such as extreme size or weight, low headroom (chiller arrived late and first floor deck is already set), load turning (why did they set the load on the truck that way), multiple hoists (transferring loads, pulling or holding back), winching and drifting (the load has got to go through that window) or custom rigging equipment, it’s advisable to have a Master or Level III Rigger on site. This individual has years of rigging experience in addition to formal training. Beyond knowing rigging calculations to a greater degree, the Master Rigger thinks of the bigger picture within the site. They will have experience with mobile cranes, forklifts, overhead hoists, etc. They know what can and cannot be done and how to use machines as tools to solve problems. They are also the mentor the Level II Rigger turns to for help.
Look around your site. Check for loads being rigged with slings at angles. Are you confident those riggers know what they are doing? Do you notice riggers checking or inspecting their gear before it’s applied? Is there a designated place for all deficient gear? Are you constantly purchasing new slings because they are being damaged after only a few uses? Are you comfortable with your injury and product damage rate?
Just because a load moves from point A to point B without incident does not mean it was a successful lift. With a breaking strength on most gear set at five times the maximum working load limit, riggers can severely and repeatedly overload gear, all while thinking it was a successful lift. That sling that broke and barely missed a couple workers was either severely overloaded or not properly inspected. In reality, these mistakes can put your team one moment away from catastrophe.
In the end, you have to be the judge. The reality remains that if something goes wrong, neither your insurance carrier, OSHA, nor the family of the injured care why the rigging failed. Mitigate risk by not only having the personnel qualified to perform the required tasks, but also providing the oversight to ensure the tasks are being executed properly.
For more information on the subject of qualified riggers, check out the OSHA Fact Sheet.