RISK MANAGEMENT: Everything you need to know about the crane signal person

03 September 2019

Bill Smith discusses Subpart CC – Signal Person Review.


Bill Smith,  Executive Vice President, NBIS, is an expert on risk management and safe crane operations. He was a member of C-DAC, which assisted writing the OSHA Crane & Derricks Standard

One of the most important roles in any lifting operation is the signalperson. Acting as the eyes and ears for the crane operator, signal persons are responsible for maintaining communication with the crane operator at all times.

When is a signal person required?

Questions sometimes arise as to when exactly a signal person is required? According to OSHA, a signal person is required when the point of operation is not in full view of the operator (1926.1419(a)). A signal person is also required when the operator’s view is obstructed in the direction the equipment is traveling and when either the operator or the person handling the load determines that a signal person is needed because of site-specific safety concerns.

What does a signal person need to know?

The signal person is considered qualified if he or she:

  • Knows and understands the type of signals used at the worksite.
  • Is competent in using these signals.
  • Understands the operations and limitations of the equipment, including the crane dynamics involved in swinging, raising, lowering and stopping loads and in boom deflection from hoisting loads.
  • Knows and understands the relevant signal person qualification requirements specified in subpart CC (1926.1419-1926.1422; 1926.1428).
  • Passes an oral or written test and a practical test.

How does a signal person become qualified?

Employers must use one of the following options to ensure that a signal person is qualified (see 1926.1428).

Third party qualified evaluator.

The signal person has documentation from a third party qualified evaluator showing that he or she meets the qualification requirements.

Employer’s qualified evaluator (not a third party).

The employer’s qualified evaluator assesses the individual, determines the individual meets the qualification requirements, and provides documentation of that determination. This assessment may not be relied on by other employers. Refer to 1926.1401 for definitions of qualified evaluators.

What if Standard Method hand signals can’t be used?

When using hand signals, the Standard Method must be used; however, there are a few exceptions. In scenarios where use of the Standard Method for hand signals is infeasible, or where an operation or use of an attachment is not covered in the Standard Method, non-standard hand signals may be used in if they meet the following requirements from subpart CC 1926.1419(c):

  • When using non-standard hand signals, the signal person, operator, and lift director (where there is one) must contact each other prior to the operation and agree on the non-standard hand signals that will be used.
  • New signals. Signals other than hand, voice, or audible signals may be used where the employer demonstrates that:
  • 1926.1419(d)(1) The new signals provide at least equally effective communication as voice, audible, or Standard Method hand signals, or
  • 1926.1419(d)(2) The new signals comply with a national consensus standard that provides at least equally effective communication as voice, audible, or Standard Method hand signals.

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