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Crane Operator

Communicating with co-workers can be a challenge when you're 500 feet in the air, peering at the ground below through the window of a crane's operating tower. True, some operating towers come equipped with CB radios, but you can't count on it.

That is why crane operators must be familiar with standard hand signals, says Ross Kerr, general manager of a crane safety company. "They use them to communicate. Not everyone else on the site would be familiar with the signals, but the people the crane operator works with closely need to know them as well."

Here are some basic crane signals that both the crane operator and the crewmembers that he works with need to know:

  • Hoist (Load Up): You lift one hand in the air, point your forefinger skyward and move it repeatedly in a circle. This means that the item is attached to the crane and ready to be moved.
  • Bridge Travel: You extend the right arm outward, with the hand open and palm facing outward, and move it toward the direction that the item is to be moved.
  • Lower: You point your forefinger toward the ground, moving it repeatedly in a circle. This means that the item on the crane is ready to be lowered.
  • Stop: You extend your arm outward, palm facing the ground, and keep it in that position.

You are a crane operator working at a construction site where a swank new 20-storey hotel is being built. Your first job was to put in the formwork for the concrete. The formwork consists of steel walls that keep the concrete in place after it has been poured. Now it is time to pour in the concrete.

Your job is to transport buckets filled with wet cement from a cement truck to the steel forms. A worker grabs the bucket, centers it over the formwork and opens a lever underneath. This releases the wet cement.

When the bucket is empty, the worker steers it away from the formwork, and you transport it safely through the air and back to workmen waiting near the cement truck.

This is a big job. On average, you can move only five buckets per hour, and it will take 60 buckets of wet cement to fill the formwork. It's going to be a long day.

You get down to work. Each time a bucket is moved, you and the workmen handling the buckets need to go through a series of hand signals. Here are the signals:

  • The workman near the cement truck lifts one hand in the air, points his forefinger skyward and moves it repeatedly in a circle.
  • The same workman extends his right arm forward, with the hand open and palm facing outward, and moves it toward the direction of the concrete forms.
  • The workman near the formwork has his arm downward, forefinger pointing to the ground, and moves it repeatedly in a circle.
  • The same workman extends his arm outward, palm facing the ground, and stays in that position.

Can you explain what the hand signals mean to the foreman to show you're ready to hit the construction site?