How to become a good crane operator


With my years of experience comes from, in 1980 I started crane operating that was over 12 months of training prior to being tested and and being issued with a ticket.
I started operating the old mechanical cranes which were air operated, eg. P&H, Lima, American, Coles, these are some of the old cranes that I grew up with.
They were hard to operate cause they also have free fall. You have to engage the lever of the drum which you are using and release the foot brake from the floor, when you stop you depress the brake on the floor and bring the lever to neutral. Failing to depress the foot break you will free fall the load to the ground. All this motion happens when you are slewing and also booming, there is no room for error.

I used to ride the hook and loads before they outlawed it in the early 80’s.
To become a good crane operator, you have to become a Dogman or rigger for sometime, when you are working at the end of the hook,you will know how hard it is to stop a swing hook or load, especially when the crane operator themselves do not know how to control the swing, this makes the riggers work very hard.

When the Rigger becomes operator and sits in the operators cabin to operate they know exactly how it feels to be at the end of that hook.
Now days all cranes are Hydraulically operated and its a pleasure to operate them, when I teach new operators, I show them what I call finger tip control, you don’t have to push or pull anymore, you operate with your fingers. The cranes operate on revs, most cranes operate on about 1500 revs, when you get the revs right you can smoothly work 3 controls at the same time.

A good operator listens to the hissing sound of the hydraulics each control makes different sound. You engage a lever, once you hear that engaging then you can start to engage another and another, coming back to neutral position, you don’t just let the control go, you release it slowly back to neutral, if you let the lever go quickly the load will bounce causing stress to the lifting equipment and the crane structures.

Something for new operators to remember YOU OPERATE BY FEEL.
You feel the levers and listen to the hydraulic hiss of the different controls.
A good crane operator listens to what his rigger tells him to do.
A good operator can make his rigger look good and a good rigger can make his crane operator look good.
Takes time, patience and lots of practice, some operators learn quick and some takes a bit of time.

Author: Tiko Koroi for

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