Detailed lift planning ensures success

07 May 2018

Joseph Kuzar

Joseph Kuzar, assistant technical director, ITI Field Services, is a member of the ASME P30.1 Planning for Load Handling Activities committee, the NCCCO Lift Director Committee, and a 3D Lift Plan Expert Lift Planner. If you have a question for Joe, please submit to

Lift plans come together in a variety of ways. I have seen plans scribbled on napkins – not ideal – and plans presented in multi-page layouts with CAD drawings, 3D renderings, tabulated data, cut-sheets of the rigging equipment to be used and detailed sequences laid out step-by-step.

Currently, there are numerous forms of technology available to lift planners to convey the lift plan to management and to the people executing the lift. They range from paper forms through elaborate macro Excel spreadsheets up to CAD drawings and web-based planning software. Various crane manufacturers even make planning software available to companies that purchase their machines.

Regardless of the technology you choose to document your lift plans, the people putting the lift plans together make the difference. The adage regarding computers rings true to lift planning, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Details matter

If lift planners are not detail-oriented, provide inaccurate information and make assumptions during the planning process, a poor lift plan will be developed soon to be followed by a poorly executed lift. One of the most important things that a lift planner can recognize is his or her own limitations. The lift planner does not have to be the be-all, end-all to lift planning. He or she should be well versed with the load handling equipment that they’re using, the principles of rigging that they will employ and the methods of load handling that they will use to move the load. But, they may not be as familiar with such things as calculating ground bearing pressures, determining presumptive bearing capacities and developing foundation systems that will support the load handling activity. In these situations, the worst thing that the lift planner can do is make assumptions and guess just to complete the lift plan.

The lift planner should seek help from companies or individuals that are experts in the various fields or disciplines that

the lift planner is not as knowledgeable.

Of course, this may have costs associated with it and it may require more time to develop the plan due to the extra coordination. The additional costs will pale in comparison to cleaning up a botched load handling activity because of a poorly developed lift plan.

Lift Plan Drawing

A standard lift employs load handling methods and procedures that are ordinary and typical while critical lifts are beyond ordinary and require additional planning to mitigate risk.

Excellent source

In 2014, ASME P30.1 Planning for Load Handling Activities was published. The purpose of the document is to provide guidance to any personnel associated with load handling activities, lifting or horizontal load movements, so that the activity can be performed with a minimum of risk. ASME P30.1 is an excellent source of information for the lift planner. It provides a list of considerations that a lift planner should evaluate while developing the lift plan. Some of those considerations are as follows:

  • Potential hazards to persons
  • Hazards in the work area
  • Complexity of the activity
  • The effects of environmental conditions on the activity
  • The load handling equipment and rigging’s respective capacities and performance
  • Commercial impact, such as load’s
  • cost or uniqueness
  • Unique site requirements (1)

Based on these considerations, and possibly others such as associated risk, the lift planner can then determine if the lift is standard or critical. A standard lift employs load handling methods and procedures that are ordinary and typical while critical lifts are beyond ordinary

and require additional planning to mitigate risk.

ASME P30.1 also provides a list of personnel, roles and responsibilities

that can be associated with lift planning. The list is not all-inclusive but it will help the lift planner identify personnel and their respective responsibilities that can assist the lift planner in planning and the lift director in executing the lift. Remember, the lift planner doesn’t have to know everything, but he or she should involve personnel that help close his or her knowledge gaps.

ASME P30.1 also provides a list of applicable lift plan sections or components. If the lift planner addresses the considerations mentioned above and provides information concerning the following lift plan sections, the result is a plan that brings attention to potential pitfalls. Most lift plans contain the following sections and more may be necessary based upon the load handling activity.

Lift Plan Picture

  • The load
  • The load handling equipment
  • Rigging
  • Load handling equipment and load travel path
  • Personnel
  • Sites, services and ancillary equipment
  • Communication system
  • Site control
  • Contingency considerations
  • Emergency action plans

Reviewing the plan

Finally, within the ASME P30.1 standard it addresses the pre-lift meeting, the load handling activity execution and the post-lift review. Pre-lift meetings are extremely important. By no means should the pre-lift meeting be the first and only meeting regarding the lift. This is usually the last opportunity for the plan to be presented to the entire team and for the team to ask questions. This is also the time and place to address current conditions and their effects on the lift. This is also the time to establish “no-go” and “all-stop” criteria and how those situations will be communicated and addressed.

Once the load handling activity is completed, a post-lift review meeting is advisable. This provides an opportunity for the team that executed the lift to evaluate areas of improvement. This part of the process is extremely important for repetitive load handling activities. (2)

Lifting planning is important. It is a culmination of technology and people. Proper lift planning can help to ensure lower risk and a well-executed load handling activity. As our industry becomes younger, lift planning can make up for the loss of experience in our industry due to retirement and other forms of attrition. If we perform it on paper first and identify all the traps and areas of concern associated with the lift, the lift becomes naturally safer.

Professional athletes often speak to the importance of practice and “mental reps.” That is what separates the true professionals from the weekend warrior. Lift planning is our industry’s practice time and our “mental reps.” It is what makes us stand out as successful professionals in our industry.


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