Upgrading the Office: Today's Crane Cabs Cater to Operators' Comfort Levels

Both OSHA and ASME have rules indicating the operator should make sure all cab systems and accessories are in proper operating condition.

Mon April 11, 2022

The condition of a crane cab says a lot about not only the crane owner but the crane operator. Crane owners can make running a rig a better experience with state-of-the-art operating systems and controls in the cab, but it's the operator's responsibility to ensure his or her "office" is tidy and uncluttered. Operators also have a duty to see that the machine itself is in good working order before they power it up.

"It is the operator's responsibility to ensure the cab is maintained, organized, clean and uncluttered," said trainers on staff at Crane Tech crane training organization in Brandon, Fla. "Supervisors and crane owners should inspect their operator cabs to observe their condition to ensure compliance with regulations, and hold their operators accountable to these standards."

An organized and well-kept operator's cab is a natural indication of the crane operator's commitment to his profession, believes Crane Tech.

"More often than not, clean and organized cabs belong to the most professional operators; those who aim to bring the highest degree of professionalism to their job."

A cab with accumulated dirt, tools, waste, newspapers and other non-related reading materials is frequently an indication of an unprofessional attitude. An unkempt cab can cause interference and distractions.

Crane manufacturers have put the operator in mind over the years, updating and redesigning cabs for ergonomics, comfort and safety as well as productivity.

Tilt-up cabs make it easier to monitor the load on the hook. Dual entrances ensure safe access and egress from the machine. And big, full-view windows reduce blind spots on the job site.

Operator Is King

Altec claims to be the first boom truck crane manufacturer to offer a tilt cab feature, back in 2011. In 2014 the Birmingham, Ala., company introduced a new crane cab featuring dual entry and improved jobsite visibility from the controls.

The front entry was designed to cut slip-trip-fall hazard exposure when the crane is in the stowed position.

"A front entrance is the safest way to access the crane controls when the crane is in the stowed position, or when the crane is positioned 180 degrees from the stowed position," according to the company.

The side entry provides convenient access/egress when the crane is positioned perpendicular to the carrier.

"When only a front entrance is provided, the operator must return the crane to the stowed position [from a working position perpendicular to the carrier] to access/egress the crane controls," wrote Altec.

The driver cab from Liebherr, which was engineered with improvements to benefit the driver, earned the 2020 American Good Design award in the transportation category.

A new multifunction steering wheel, side roller blind on the driver's door, enhanced instruments and modules and new displays were incorporated to improve the driving experience. An automatically adjustable sun sensor was added to detect strong sunshine.

Additional comforts and conveniences included an optional central locking system with remote key, a cool box and tire-pressure monitoring as well as a new automatic climate control system in both the driver's and operator's cabs guarantees comfortable working conditions.

This year, National Crane launched a cab that tilts hydraulically up to 20 degrees. Designed to reduce neck strain, the boom truck tilt cab also offers a heated seat and high-output HVAC system to "keep the operator comfortable and productive in all weather conditions."

Responsive single- and dual-axis electronic joystick controls were installed to be easily adjusted to suit the operator's preference.

National also simplified setup and operation, and outfitted the cab with a color, graphical RCL integrated control system that enables monitoring of all vital truck and crane data from within the crane cab.

Cab Hazards

All of these upgrades were made with the crane operators in mind because they spend more time than anyone inside the cab. But it's up to them how clean and functional their office is from day to day.

Beyond the impression a messy cab leaves, there are hazards associated with clutter, grime and general chaos, according to a Crane Tech blog post on the topic.

For instance, oily rags can lead to "off-gassing" in the cab, which can cause health hazards. This condition "can lead to headaches and light-headedness, especially in the winter if the heater is running."

Items on the floor can roll under foot pedals and interfere with proper operations. Liquids and spit cups especially those without lids can be easily spilled. And, typically, liquids and energized electronics do not mix well.

Sugary drinks — even just the dregs in an open, empty can — have the potential to draw stinging insects. This situation could lead to a potential mishap with an out- of-control crane if levers get knocked while trying to get the insect out of the cab.

Food debris can lead to bad odors and draw insects and rodents, who may eat more than just the waste. Often rodents find they like the taste of insulation on wires, seat cushions and hoses, as well.

Paperwork, magazines and newspapers, when placed on the dash, can lead to a reflection on the glass that creates a visual hazard for the operator.

Mud/dirt not scraped off before entering the cab can build up on the grooves of the non-slip surface of foot pedals over time. This condition reduces the effectiveness of the grip.

Slings not properly stowed could get caught in rotating machinery, while tools, rigging hardware and screws can fall down causing injury to personnel and/or equipment.

Finally, unsecured items, such as fire extinguishers or tool boxes, on the cab running board or crane deck can be knocked loose due to movement and become a strike or caught-in hazard.

"Simply put, an operator who does not care for their equipment may lead to not caring for the job tasks required," said Crane Tech.

In fact, OSHA regulations address items in the cab. Regulation 29 CFR 1910.180(i)(3) Cabs. (i), reads "Necessary clothing and personal belongings shall be stored in such a manner as to not interfere with access or operation."

Section (ii) "Tools, oil cans, waste, extra fuses and other necessary articles shall be stored in the tool box, and shall not be permitted to lie loose in or about the cab."

And ASME volume B30.5-3.4.10(a) states that "a portable fire extinguisher, with a basic minimum extinguisher rating of 10BC, shall be installed in the cab or at the machinery housing."

Condition Is Key

The operator's cab is designed to protect against weather. Modern cranes have electronic systems, such as load moment indicators, rated capacity indicators and rated capacity limiters, which must be protected.

The operator must see that doors are closed at night or during wet weather, said Crane Tech. The cab also must provide the operator with a clear and unrestricted view of the load, the boom tip and the surrounding job site.

"Visibility to either side is provided to give the operator 180-degree or greater vision to the site," the crane training school said. "Cab windows shall be constructed with safety glass or equivalent and they must remain crack-free and clean at all times."

A crack in a window can produce a blinding effect when sunlight or other forms of light refract off the crack. Windows that open provide ventilation and must be properly secured to prevent accidental closure.

Windshield wipers are typically provided for the front and overhead windows of a construction crane. Wipers must effectively clear the window so vision is not obstructed, and wiper blades must be replaced regularly.

The cab door must be restrained from opening and closing accidentally and be lockable to prevent unauthorized entry when left unattended. The door adjacent to the operator shall open outward via swinging doors. If the door slides, it should be designed to slide rearward to open.

"A leading cause of injuries to equipment operators is falling from the equipment," according to Crane Tech. "Maintaining a three-point contact can help prevent falls while entering or exiting the cab."

The three-point contact rule requires that two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot, remain in contact with the machine at all times. Handholds and steps shall be provided as needed, and they shall be securely fastened, wrote Crane Tech.

"The operator should not attempt to carry loose items while entering or exiting the cab."

He or she should have someone pass items up after he enters the cab, or place items in the cab prior to entering. A small satchel can often hold needed items and be small enough to store out of the way.

Ergonomics and comfort are crucial to not only good health but productivity. Sitting in an uncomfortable seat for three to four hours at time can cause discomfort.

"Don't underestimate the need for a comfortable crane operator seat. Some operators spend an entire shift in the seat, so they should be reasonably comfortable," wrote Crane Tech.

A headrest is helpful when loads are handled at high boom angles. Ensure that all mirrors are properly in place, clean and adjustable. Mirrors provide the required view to the rear of the operator.

In fact, ASME B30.5 notes that additional mirrors may include those for viewing hoist drum(s), or outriggers in their extended and/or retracted position.

"Make sure all cab systems and accessories remain in proper operating condition. Air conditioners, heaters and other cab comforts may seem like non-essentials, but operators need to be sharp," wrote Crane Tech.

And, again, "don't forget to check on the cleanliness of the crane cabs. A clean cab translates to a more professional attitude." CQ