14.05.2011

Four yearly crane overload testing

The UK’s crane rental association – the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) - has issued a Technical Information Note, a letter and a declaration form to help UK crane rental companies overcome customer demands for a four year overload test that is no longer required or recommended.

The overload test is a hang-over from the old UK crane regulations that were abolished in 1998 and replaced with the current LOLER requirements. Many job sites have continued to require a current four year overload test for any crane entering their site.

Crane manufacturers have campaigned against regular overload testing for many years, on the basis that it can create fatigue and damage the crane structure while being a poor indicator of the cranes structural integrity. The CPA’s best practice guide, launched at Vertikal Days last year and co-published with the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed this, recommending strict, documented thorough inspections by qualified individuals as a better alternative.

With many sites continuing to demand the test certificates, the association has now published the TIN- the text of which is reproduced below – along with a declaration form that can be carried in the cab of every crane in place of a test certificate.

A PDF version of the TIN will be placed into the Vertikal Library in the section Best Practice Guides. Click here to see or download PDF version

Four Yearly Overload Testing of Mobile Cranes
(Wheeled & Crawler)

In the past, mobile cranes in the UK have frequently been subjected to overload testing at four yearly intervals, in addition to the periodic thorough examinations required by The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER). This is a legacy from the requirements of the old Construction (Lifting Operations) Regulations 1961, which were repealed when LOLER was introduced in 1998. The Approved Code of Practice to Regulation 9 of LOLER states that any testing is at the discretion of the competent person carrying out a thorough examination and that the competent person will decide on the nature of the test and the method of carrying it out.

Routine overload testing of mobile cranes has a significant number of disadvantages:-
• Most mobile crane manufacturers do not recommend overload tests, except in “exceptional” circumstances and then place a limit on the magnitude of the test load that may be applied;
• Repeated overloads may have a deteriorating effect on the crane structure over time;
• Most structural failures are the result of fatigue cracks and such defects will not be identified by an overload test. The competent person undertaking thorough examination should be able to discover cracks during thorough examination;
• Inspection bodies such as SAFed members do not recommend it, as there is no defined structural or mechanical benefit;
• A significant number of insurance policies do not provide cover for a crane that has been overloaded in any circumstances, including overload testing
• Periodic overload testing gives a false sense of security to both mobile crane owners and users.

A far better indication of the condition of a mobile crane is given by adopting the “defined written scope” approach to thorough examination. The defined scope of thorough examination is specific to an individual crane and should cover at least:-
• What is to be looked at;
• How often;
• Examination methods to be employed including special tools, equipment or procedures;
• Details of any supplementary reports and tests;
• Anticipated duration.

The defined scope of thorough examination for an individual crane will comprise of generic elements applicable to most cranes, supplemented by crane specific elements derived from consideration of information including:-
• Crane specific details;
• Maintenance and repair data;
• Manufacturer’s information (alerts and technical bulletins);
• In-service history;
• Proposed future use.

This approach ensures that the thorough examination concentrates on those areas of the crane which are highly stressed, are subject to deterioration or are known to wear rapidly.

Further detailed information on the defined written scope of thorough examination approach is given in the CPA Best Practice Guide on the Maintenance, Inspection and Thorough Examination of Mobile Cranes which was produced with the HSE, UKCG, SAFed and a number of other industry organisations. The Best Practice Guide, which is endorsed by the HSE, may be downloaded free of charge at www.cpa.uk.net/p/Safety-Leaflets .
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