A Crane Operator Wears Many (Hard) Hats

Experienced crane operator getting in her cabWhat is the life of a crane operator like? That’s a good question. Keep in mind there are different types of cranes, such as tower cranes and mobile cranes, so there can be some variety when it comes to the type of crane being operated– but, in general, no matter what kind of crane, a day in the life of a crane operator the world over is pretty similar wherever you go.

Cranes are big and powerful. They are machines that require a skilled person to be in charge of them. Of course they can be dangerous, too, so there’s always the element of danger in the back of the minds of crane operators. One wrong move and someone could be killed!

A Day in the Life of a Crane Operator

For many crane operators, work days start early in the morning and can last all day long. If a mobile crane is involved in their work, there’s the issue of transportation to deal with– how’s it getting to the site? While many cranes can easily be transported along roads and highways, there are issues when doing so, like bridges getting in the way! Width, height and weight are all taken into consideration when it comes to transporting cranes– and sometimes longer routes may be taken just because they’re easier or safer.

A crane operator always keeps safety in mind. Think about a typical construction site. Not only do you have cranes on site, but also many other pieces of machinery, equipment and, of course, people. There could be delivery trucks, excavating equipment and more, so the crane operator has to make sure the crane is somewhat protected from all the chaos around it. Proper set up (and planning) go into where a crane is placed so that it’s not going to injure people or property. Furthermore, crane operators often employ various checklists, enabling them to keep track of all the details that go into their job.

If a construction site was a play, the crane operator is like a director and the rest of the people are the actors and stagehands. Crane operators have to be sure that people on site are qualified to signal and rig loads properly. They have to have an overview of what’s going on at all times, and even be called upon to notice issues, like leaks, cable wear or computer issues. If there are problems, they need to be corrected quickly– and that’s often the crane operator’s call. Frequent walk-around inspections may be conducted daily to check to see everything’s in working order.

The Evolution of the Crane Operator Role

Crane operator adjusting liftIf you were a crane operator decades ago, and then you got out of the business only to return in 2023, you’d be shocked at how things have changed thanks to software, computers and technology. In an effort to bolster efficiency and accuracy, newer cranes have been designed with computers on-board to help with measurements and assessments. It’s not unusual now to glance at a computer screen and see info such as the weight of the lift, wind speed and other critical info listed. Furthermore, cranes have become bigger and stronger over the years. If a 200-ton crane was a big deal in 1973, today you might be handling a 6,000-ton crane! Cranes are easier to assemble than in the past, too.

Despite advancements in the crane world, are there still challenges being a crane operator? Yes. Weather and ground conditions can fluctuate. Environmental hazards can get in the way of safe lifts. Mother Nature’s rain, fog and/or snow can definitely dictate whether or not a lift takes place. It’s also important to avoid poor soil conditions since an operator wants to make sure they’re on stable ground.

Skills Needed by Crane Operators

A crane operator has to communicate with fellow workers on site, and that is done with hand signals and/or radio communications. An operator also has to try and keep to a schedule. Time is money and goals need to be met “on-time” as planned. Therefore, work might take place at odd hours, on weekends or even on holidays. A typical shift lasts between 8 and 12 hours. A crane operator often sits in a cab for long periods of time, alone, working the controls of the crane and communicating by phone or radio with others. It can sometimes feel a little isolating, to be honest.

What are some qualities a good crane operator possesses? He or she is calm under pressure and can adapt to changing conditions. He or she is also a good communicator and able to use diplomacy when dealing with all sorts of people.

Are you thinking of becoming a crane operator? Or do you need to hire reliable crane operators in the New England Area? Call Astro Crane at 978-429-8666.