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NEWS > FEB 2019

Rigging Differently, an Awareness!

By Dennis O’Rourke

Decades ago I learned that there were serious differences in the skill necessary for employees to properly attach loads to cranes at the ports or manufacturing plants (production rigging) as opposed to a building site (construction/ironworker rigging) or in a paper mill’s machine shop (millwright/maintenance rigging.) It hit me in the late 70’s when I started development and presenting rigging programs for various industries (DOE for one) which required a listing of topics and objectives for the courses.

rigging differently

Being schooled in “adult skills training techniques” and what the instructor is to accomplish (student performance), I recognized changes in how we trained people for the work they were doing, “one size doesn’t fit all!” Most programs were based on Navy manuals. The book “Instructional Technique” by Ivor K. Davies nicely lists the fundamentals for a basic program; this 1981 book served my purposes.

Production Rigging is the repetitive movement of the same type object with the same gear in the same work environment. The loads can be truck chassis moved from the end of an assembly line ten times a day or, a rotor in a power plant moved once a year. The duties of the people that attach the load are the same.

The people that attach load are not usually called “riggers” but by their skill or employment category. What are or what “are not” their load attaching duties as compared to other industries? Well, they don’t select or inspect the rigging gear which is provided to them, attaching points specified; don’t determine load weight or center of gravity location; or select where the load is coming from or going too. We see that the actual moving of the object is incidental to their overall duties, thus, may be taken for granted.

So, your guy “Denny,” has just been promoted to Mechanical Assembler III and is placed at the last station of the “line” to bolt critical struts connecting the axles to the truck frame. To accomplish this, he lifts the 2500 lb assembly in the air and rotates it 180 degrees and sets it on the alignment bench, using a ten ton overhead crane that he operates via a pendant station and when landed, does his “thing.”

All he’s responsible for is to connect the slings to the frame, hoist it and flip it over. What could go wrong – if he properly connects the frame? An accident performing just about the same hoisting operation as Denny’s occurred in a Tool & Die shop at a plant. The refinishing of the 12,800 lb die requires lifting them using a crane, rotated the die and sitting it down. This is routinely done by one person; again they make no other decisions other than attaching the slings and what button on the pendent station to push.

However, on the night shift, a die wasn’t properly connected, and when lifted, it fell hitting the technician. He was working alone at the time. Does this work become so routine that one forgets?

NASA attached the Space Shuttle to the external fuel tank about three times a year on average. The problem was the Shuttle was trucked in horizontally and attached to the rocket vertically. To accomplish this 90-degree maneuver the Shuttle Erection Team (SAT) technician used a specially designed lifting fixture.

Shuttle installation is an example of production rigging using specific gear having a 10 to 1 design factor, same attaching points, repetitive lifts of the similar objects, and of the same weight/C.G. The SAT team had many technical procedures to perform before the “mating” took place but, how to pick the Shuttle up with a “Yellow” lifting fixture at twice the capacity of the payload with a 450 ton Coby bridge crane located in the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) was not one of them.

The 100% perfect Lifting record at the VAB and not at the Tool and Die shop, why? The skill levels between Tool/Die Machinist and Mechanical Technicians are about the same, work experience and pay scale.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” it is said by some. I don’t think there is a buildup of contempt in rigging, but there may be complacency!

DENNIS J. O’ROURKE, CSP, dennis@natlcrane.com, is the Director of National Crane Services, Inc. He has over fifty years’ experience in the industrial, maritime, and construction fields working with heavy equipment and material handling devices. As a safety engineer, Mr. O’Rourke has developed and/or presented over 300 safety-training programs for all representative elements of government and industry.

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