Reducing delivery risks – a quick guide to crane safety

Deliveries are the lifeblood of your business, dispatching products that power your customers’ projects. However, the equipment that makes drops more efficient can also make them more dangerous.

Life-threatening injuries can occur when a crane or load comes into contact with employees or members of the public. However, accidents can be prevented with a trained operator, well-maintained equipment and an assessment for each lift.

We’ve outlined the critical steps to consider before every drop.

Carrying out crane checks  

Mechanical and capacity checks should be your starting point for every delivery. Conduct a visual inspection to ensure machinery is in optimum condition, with no signs of wear, tear or damage. Pay special attention to:

  • Cables, slings and hoses
  • Hydraulic systems
  • Oil levels
  • Tanks, valves and drain pumps
  • Hoists and hooks

Confirm the load does not exceed the crane’s capacity. No vehicle should be loaded beyond its rated capacity or legal limit of gross weight. If you don’t know the load’s weight, multiply the estimated weight by an appropriate factor (typically 1.5). 

Ensuring a safe site

You have a duty of care to workers, customers and the public to reduce all possible risks during crane operation. This begins by conducting an onsite risk assessment and taking steps to create safe surroundings.

  • Stand in a secure position and monitor passers-by.
  • Set up the crane on level ground in an area stable enough to support the weight of the crane and the load.
  • Use floor pads, outriggers or stabilisers to create a level surface for loading and unloading.
  • Position the crane away from excavations, cellars and drains.
  • Place the vehicle as close as possible to the setting down or picking up point when loading or unloading.
  • Use cones to create a clear working space and avoid blocking pavements wherever possible.
  • Consider weather conditions such as wind, rain, snow or ice, which could impact the crane and load’s stability.

Prior to undertaking a lift, ensure that:

  • You’ve risk assessed the situation.
  • The area is free of pedestrians and other vehicles.
  • There are no overhead cable hazards.
  • You have clear sight of the load path.

Operating the crane remote

Not all vehicles use crane remotes, but a lot do. A crane remote is an essential tool for improving safety and efficiency during a delivery. Precautions should always be taken to ensure the remote is used correctly.

  • Position yourself in a safe place with a clear view of the crane and load at all times.
  • Never walk while operating the crane remote.
  • Ensure the remote is isolated when not in use.
  • Use a belt or neck strap to prevent the remote from being dropped and accidentally activated.
  • Familiarise yourself with the control functions before use to avoid unintentional movements.
  • Make sure the area is clear of people, obstacles and potential weather hazards before operating the crane remote.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for the crane and the remote control.
  • Never operate the crane or the remote control under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Working at height

Deliveries often involve working at height, with drivers risking serious injury by climbing into the lorry bed. A few simple safety strategies can protect your team from slips, trips and falls.

  • Access the vehicle bed only when needed, checking slip and trip hazards such as ropes, bindings and loose packaging.
  • If accessing the back of the vehicle is unavoidable, wear a hard hat with a chin strap.
  • Enter and exit using the steps, handholds and lanyards provided – not the vehicle frame or wheel. Maintain three points of contact when climbing.
  • Never jump down from the lorry bed or attempt to access or exit a moving vehicle.
  • Wear safety shoes at all times.
  • Take care when stepping out of a vehicle, avoiding potholes, icy ground and kerbs.
  • Keep vehicle sides up when accessing lorry beds to prevent falls and provide edge protection.
  • Avoid standing on products or materials on the vehicle.
  • Be aware of adverse weather conditions that may make surfaces slippery.
  • Always walk in the direction you’re facing, looking out for unstable surfaces and slip, trip and fall hazards.
  • Never operate the crane remote when standing on the back of a vehicle.

Using personal protective equipment (PPE)

Wearing correct PPE is vital when working with lorry-mounted cranes. Equipment should be regularly inspected, properly maintained and kept in the vehicle at all times.

Operators should wear:

  • A hard hat with a restraining device or chin strap.  
  • Clean, suitable safety footwear to minimise trip, slip and fall risks.
  • Hi-visibility vest/coat.
  • Professional-grade gloves to protect against sharp edges and pinch points.
  • Controlling the drop
  • Communication, clear visibility and safe surroundings are crucial when manoeuvring loads.
  • Ensure you can see where the load will land.
  • Confirm the area around the crane is completely clear of people and the terrain and environment are safe to perform the drop.
  • Create a safety zone with cones during crane operation.
  • Don’t leave loads blocking pavements or roads unless a permit is in place.
  • Make sure loads are secure after each drop.

Practising powerline safety

Loading and unloading are not permitted under overhead cables or within their specific exclusion zones, so always remember to pause, look up and look out before using your crane.

  • Position yourself as far away as possible from the powerline and in a place where you can see the load path.
  • Ensure you are outside the exclusion zone when your boom is fully extended.
  • Make sure pedestrians are clear of the area.
  • Use lights and take particular care in dark and foggy conditions.
  • Treat all overhead powerlines as live and dangerous.
  • Remember that different powerlines have different exclusion zones.
  • If you need to drop within the exclusion zone, contact your manager for additional controls.

Following site rules

Every delivery is unique, so familiarise yourself with site rules before arrival. While it’s important to follow customer procedures, it’s the driver’s decision on how and where to drop.

Taking time to complete equipment checks, create safe conditions and actively reduce risk could save lives. As the operator and supervisor of the crane, you’re in charge – and protecting yourself and others is all part of the job.

Speak to an Opus expert

We’ve helped hundreds of builders merchants establish better working practices, with specialist compliance advice and targeted employee training.

For business-minded support for your health and safety challenges, talk to the team on 0330 043 4015 or email