A Behavioural Based Study on Lifting and Hoisting Failures

  1. Lifting and Hoisting Failures

  2. Introduction

Lifting and hoisting related injuries have been on the rise. Even with all the technological advancements, legislations, best practices and standards; incidents still occur. By definition, safety professionals are responsible for controlling exposure to risk (Tim Page-Bottorff, February 2016).

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In many ways, I do agree with that statement. For SH&E practitioners, a hierarchy of controls establishes the actions to be considered in an order of effectiveness to resolve unacceptable hazardous situations (Fred A. Manuele, May 2005). For my research topic, I focused on human behavioral aspects of lift related activities. There are a myriad of lift related articles but most focus on engineering aspects. Some, do come close like in the case of a defect in the design of the crane, it was classified as a `normal accident’ (Paul Swuste, 2013). But herein, it emphasizes on the defects which led to an accident with an element of risk tolerance. Human factors are studied independently and form a holistic approach for safety management but not necessarily how it correlates to lift operations. Very often, little attempt is made to understand why the human failures occurred (Health and Safety Executive, 1999).

  1. Research Question

How can we embed behavior-based safety into lifting and hoisting operations to reduce incidents?

  1. Aim and Objectives


My aim was to highlight human errors, gaps and lapses that contribute to lifting failures. Examine and assess underlying root causes related to human behavior that cause lifting related incidents. Discover fundamental reasons for recurring fatal and serious injuries. What are the human errors and gaps that cause such incidents and what can we do to overcome them? There was a need to boil down to root causes and introduce causal learning initiatives. `                All reasoning was researched without vilipending any detail in the slightest. In doing so, we were able to recommend mechanisms with verification and validation protocols that form a holistic approach to managing lift operations. Inefficiencies in lifting and hoisting cause incidents and consume both tragic human and financial loss at an unacceptable level. Various ways to reduce or eliminate these inefficiencies were identified.


Purpose of study was to expose behavioral faults relating to lifting and hoisting operations. By delving and investigating what drives such acts we can rectify what drives a person to commit an at-risk behavior. By recognizing factors that contribute to poor lift and hoist operations, we can introduce systems and measures to prevent incidents. We have to strike a fine balance so as to ensure that recommendations introduced are not exhaustive and inferential. Eliminating poor lifting and hoisting practices by using behavior-based foundations. The research enabled stakeholders to proactively identify lift related hazards and provide for mitigation recommendations. It may also help establish proper procedures or standards by serving as a tool for analyzing risks associated with lifts. Recommendations or measures introduced also have the potential to be used in other contexts and tasks. In essence, it’s applicable to a myriad of activities but my focus was only be on lift and hoist operations as it’s the focus of my study.

After study was conducted, a root cause analysis flowchart was established. Notion being that factors or perceptions which would have led or initiated sequence of events that resulted in and individual or workgroup committing an at-risk behavior. It was therefore be of interest to correct these factors so as to prevent recurrence of a similar situation. In do so, it was imperative to establish correct root causes as this in turn derives necessary measures to rectify situations that could have potentially have led to an at-risk behavior or incident. Potential benefits to lift and hoist operations was identified to be lesser stakeholders being injured, reduction in incident severity and reduction in property damage. In turn, this lead to an increase in efficiency, productivity, reliability and performance.

  1. Literature Review

Most of the fatalities studied appear to be due carelessness or inattention (J.E. Beavers et al., 2006). What can we do about it? Careless, inattentive; what can we do about it? What if I told you that technology could help you by warning an individual of a potential falling object? Could we track being struck by falling objects based on real time information for proactive prevention (Weiwei Wu et al., 2013)? A bold concept, being struck by falling objects is a proponent of lifting operation related hazards. However, there are numerous hazards in a worksite and being struck by falling objects is just one of it. Albeit proposals recommended in this article is low cost, its application are very limited as it’s not a one-solution that fixes all and recommending such measures to stakeholders may not be well received by decision makers as it only helps with one aspect of managing people. There are other factors that must be taken into consideration such as how these RFID sensors are to be maintained. Is there a calibration regime etc.?

In light of recent accidents do you there is a need for tighter controls and inspection of cranes? (Begum Sertyesilisik et al., 2013). That is a question that would be asked to an operator or lift specialist. How would he feel? It sounds like the question in itself doubts the competency, skill and knowledge of that individual. But, the writers have acknowledged the need for a feedback mechanism that is not part of a current apparatus.

Personnel performed test with no previously established procedures (A.A. Marquez et al., 2014). Errors made by humans are being identified. What is being done about that? By delving into case studies with interviews from persons involved; they’ve come up with evidence based recommendations. However, it is important to note that this study was done within the UK context. As with all, culture forms the foundation of practices.

There is one too many articles that tend to focus on material aspects. Instead of narrowing down root causes on why certain decisions made, a stress analysis of a crane jib is first carried out (Fransesco Frendo, 2013) a seam weld caused a dockside crane jib to collapse. Instead of asking why someone chose to seam weld a `structure’, questions were focused on equipment integrity. The vantage points for incidents are being seen from an engineering and quality standpoint with very few considerations about persons.

Yes, people do agree that failure of cranes are potentially dangerous events and often have fatal consequences (A.A. Marquez et al., 2014). Root causes are related to human errors and be defined as exceeded barriers (A.A. Marquez et al., 2014). A spade is a spade and let’s refers to it as such. By manipulating human errors we fail to recognize consequences of actions since we’re subverting its notion.

Assess the importance of each factor influencing risk (O.N. Aneziris et al., 2014). Evaluating such factors does not provide for an immediate answer. Rather, it denotes important items that should be considered before a corrective and preventive action plan is developed. Accident rates can be reduced through usage of safety devices and by legislation (Begum Sertyesilisik et al., 2013). Are we placing too much faith on engineering and administrative controls? Hierarchy of controls establishes the actions to be considered in an order of effectiveness to resolve unacceptable hazardous situations (Fred A. Manuele, May 2005). Hazardous situations could be resolved with control measures but human behavior is unpredictable. Undoubtedly, it’s human behaviors that either cause or contribute to hazardous situations. No matter how rigorous the safety system, human behavior could short-circuit almost any safety feature (Tim Page-Bottorff, February 2016).

Influencing positive behaviors that reduces errors (Health and Safety Executive, 1999). Careful consideration of human factors at work can reduce the number of incidents (Health and Safety Executive, 1999). By using this concept as a catalyst, we can reduce incidents to lift operations. The challenge lies in applying it proactively with minimal impact to operations. Relatively little focus is placed on properly adjusting the wide range of potentially unsafe habits that workers bring with them to the work-place each day (Tim Page-Bottorff, February 2016). Overhauling the present concept of corrective and preventive action plan is imperative. The cliché action plans routinely tell persons to be retrained or be suspended from work. Does that solve the problem? The research I’m doing will delve into this narrative.

  1. Study Design

As said in my research question, I’d like to embed behavior based safety into lift operations so as to reduce incidents in this field. For my method of study, I’ll initiate case studies from 3 different lift operations. In each lift operation, there is a Lifting Supervisor, Rigger, Signalman and Crane Operator. Each team compromises of a 4-men crew. This will be all be done in the context of my workplace which is in the oil & gas industry. Each lifting team will differ in setting, meaning, I’ll be conducting case studies from Maintenance, Projects and Turnaround. Each department’s tasks   would differ in job scope, objective and priorities. Each study will involve interviewing members of each lifting team and observing their behaviors pertaining to lift operations. In addition, I’ll also interview a front line supervisor from each work party. These front line supervisors are act as work coordinators or planning engineers to ensure work is done as per scope and are responsible for all overall work aspects.

In summary, I’ll be conducting interviews on 15 persons. Even though stakeholders work within the organization, each departments has different methods of work. It’ll interesting to note how each department thinks and sets its own precedence. Albeit organizational culture sets the tone, this rarely trickles down to departments. Timelines, scheduling, budgets, perception, Key-Performance Indicators / Lagging indicators etc. mandate practices on the field. I’ll attempt to investigate the differences in opinions and what can be done to align practices for the greater good.

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