IamA Tower Crane Operator (like the one that fell in Manhattan) AMA!
hey reddit, I'm a tower crane operator from Australia currently on a new construction job operating a Favelle Favco tower Crane, Ask me anything about cranes working in the city!
Edit:The crane that collapsed was a crawler crane not a tower crane, similar set up, the crawler obviously can crawl where the tower is fixed
My Proof: here's a pic of the crane I drive, I have more pics including pics of me in it http://imgur.com/jnXns3B https://anonmgur.com/?8697d5862a5a6027b3ced48e04f5b611.jpg http://imgur.com/TovytIh http://imgur.com/JtsTQoM
Hahahahah a joystick slave! There are times when I get to kick back and have a sleep in the crane but as a tower crane operator you are also a dogman, a dogman works on the ground an directs the crane with radios, whistle signals or hand signals, we swap driving and dogging day by day, so the days your not in the crane your on your feet running all day directing the crane and hooking up/landing loads, it's much more physically and mentally demanding that you would expect!
I'm just kidding about joystick slave. Mentally demanding some times for sure, no doubt. I do see you guys sleeping a lot though lol
Hahaha all good if you cant lift theres no way your climbing down so sleep it is!
How has no one made a dogging joke? The internet has failed me
You should have made the first one....you've really let me down
That was a crawler crane that collapsed in New York. Not a tower crane. I'm a tower operator in the U.S. and it is weird to me that you said you were also a rigger/dogman as well. Why is that? Do you alternate days operating? Or weeks?
Hey I just saw another video from the street yeah it was a crawler crane, I thought it was just a big pin jib tower, all good, got some good questions in, yeah we alternate days operating, we work in teams of four: coordinator and 3xRigger/dogman/Crane Operators, how does it work over there? At what speeds do you hook up in the wind? do you work in the rain? heat?
Where I am, Atlanta, GA. Your crane is yours until it comes down. So I climb everyday and operate. On the flip side of that though is you guys have way more experienced riggers and signalmen. We get a guy who makes $9 an hour and can swing a hammer. As far as wind goes it's been very windy here lately. 35MPH winds yesterday. NCCCO says you're not supposed to operate in winds over 35. It's not uncommon at all to operate in 25 MPH winds. Then again I'm not in a luffing tower crane. Never ran one but I would like to.
Thats what you get with unskilled non-union workers
Wow! Here we operate to a max of 70kph(43mph) and we also dont work in the rain or in temps over 35c...our union is still very strong here and our conditions are good, thats a real spin out that you guys operate with un experienced dogman(signalmen) for me having 100% trust in each other is paramount, props to you aderhold, I dont know how you guys do it like that!
How did you get the job, was it always your dream to be a crane operator?
Also, did you get a full training or did they just explained it and then let you do the job?
To get onto a tower crane crew here is very difficult generally and like most things getting your foot in the door is often about who you know, as it was in my case, Id worked in similar industries prior and had been around mobile cranes (cranes that are built as a truck/crane in one and can move themselves around) it wasnt always a dream to be on a crane and when I first started was extremely demanding, there is a lot to take on board and the fact that your in control of something that could potentially kill your workmates, other people on site and civilians around you is something you always need to remember, there are certain things than are done certain ways and this is drilled into you very hard, there is no room for error as the consequences can be catastrophic. I was trained and still am in training, you will always be learning, at first a driver will come up and explain things to you and teach you some of the tricks they use, then one day they will throw you in the deep end and say up you go by yourself, you need to be licensed so you also receive training as you obtain your license but generally you would be expected to have a good knowledge of the workings of the crane and be able to "catch your slew" and "catch your jib" during the practical assessment. note: the headache ball (the weight on the end of your wire rope just about your hook) will swing like a pendulum left and right as you slew(turn the crane left or right) and you are expected to be able to slew at the right pace at the right time to meet the sideways momentum of the crane and "catch" the swing so that as you line up with your mark the hook becomes settled as it comes down, catching your jib is the same principal but with up and down movement instead of side to side the jib is the big metal frame the sticks out the front of the crane, like the arm of the crane... hope i got all the info in there!
Do you carry your pee bottle down daily or let them pile up a bit?
20litre drum generally take a while to fill ;)
I can't even build a lego tower with the same narrow footprint and height (to scale) that won't fall over - how do you trust a tall crane won't just fall over?
As much as you sometimes dont want to, we need to trust in engineering reports, believe me, when doing heavy lifts at distance or when the wind gets up the amount of rock in the crane sometimes makes its feel like your going to topple over...you just need to clench your ass and hope for the best as your leaning forward with the crane looking through the glass window between your feet....
How high is: 1)your cab, 2)the tip of the crane at full height, and 3)the highest you can raise a load?
1)The cabin is 38m from the ground currently, as the building is built up the crane will jump so stay above the building, our crane is an internal climber so the crane tower will be pushed up by hydraulic Rams when in balance and then fixed to a higher level as we go, this is the most dangerous part of the job and is done when no other workers are on site, as while the crane jumps it is on balance and there is a much greater risk of collapse
2) Our current cranes max jib is 48.8meters so at full stretch the tip of the jib is 48.8 meters from the cabin 3)the highest we can raise a load currently is the cabin height plus jib length so roughly 78.8meters from the ground, our max safe working load is 12.5tonnes
Could you help us understand the spectrum of typical career paths in crane operating?
- I assume the dream job is to operate for the parkour chase scenes in action movies, but what else can a really badass operator do? What can a really bad one fuck up?
- What kind of dinosaur do you pretend to be when you're operating the crane?
We lifted a 35 ton turbine rotor a week ago. Even small damage on sensitive areas can cost $30,000 or more to fix. It the rotor was dropped and "totaled", it would cost about $10 million and take 2 years to make a new one. When we install this part in the machine, it has to be placed within about 0.1".
I worry more about the crane itself than the operator. They have a nasty habit of breaking down whenever the schedule is really tight. Also, some cranes have better controls than others. Sometimes older cranes are jerky, have a minimum speed (can't move slow enough), etc. The skill of the operator becomes even more important if you have a bad crane.
Turbine guy is spot on, the quality of machines varies greatly and you need to familiarise yourself with the machine your operating....some of them are dinosaurs...
How much do you make a year?
depending on the job you can make 180k and up...but you could also make a lot more or a lot less.....
How long does it take to get all the way up to the cabin?
a couple of minutes, there are vertical ladders in he tower and a hatch at the top, if the crane is over 40meters it will have a lift on the side
Do you have a safety harness to catch you in case you slip off the ladder?
Nope no safety harness, you get used to it pretty fast and a fear of heights wont get you very far in this profession, we always make a habit of watching our driver for the day whenever he climbs up or down the tower, there are no rules about this, but we like to know our friend is safe
Hahah. How does watching make it any safer?
It dosnt make it any safer, but if something happens to him/me at least we can respond quickly and minimize harm
How much of your job is skill, and how much of it is handled by the tech? Curious as to how crane systems have evolved over time, say, to control a swinging load.
I would have to say the majority of it is skill, the computers are really only a safety warning system in case of overload etc, the computer will tell me my jib length, live load weight, allowable weight at x distance, catching a swinging load or out of control load is on the dogman and the driver, when the crane comes around with for example a load of something that weighs 5000kg both the driver and I know the weight as we have confirmed it with each other via radio, so if one dogman sends a 5000kg load from the north of a work site, he will position the hook over the load slightly short of the loads center of gravity, to allow for deflection of the crane, he must work out the amount of deflection to ensure the load dosnt swing in or out on lift off, as 5tonne swinging cannot be stopped and could crush the dogman or someone else, once the load is up the driver the controls the load doing a 180degree turn, the must turn accordingly, a heavy load like that will be predictable and he will let it swing past him and then chase it around to keep it steady, when he is in view of the second dogman on the south side the dogman will take over, he is standing roughly where the object will land and will judge when to tell the driver to ease up his slew and then catch the speed of the load to settle it before bringing it down, if the load has in and out swing he will also adjust the crane down or up timed right to settle the in and out swing, the crane systems in use in a majority older systems that require a specialized skill set to operate....
the short version crane systems do f**ckall other than warn when something is wrong or cut out to avoid catastrophic failure, 95% is skill
In your opinion, what was the cause of the accident in New York City?
hahaha my empty wallet! true! theres not a whole lot of info on it but I believe at this stage the weather was getting worse, cranes such as that one will normally stop operating at 20m/s or 70kph that is considered high winds, when in a tower crane even at 20meters height, winds of 20-25meters become very obvious, you feel like a bird on a wire, the crane tower will rock back and forth quite alot and a crane must be in weathervein (the slew is unlocked so the crane is free to move in the wind left-right) to ensure it dosnt become unstable, the manhattan crane was aware of the high winds and was jibbing down(lowering the arm) so that the crane could be secured to a fixed anchor down below so as to not blow over, most probably a strong wind gust got up behind the crane and had enough force behind it to knock the crane off balance
I'm on a job right now and my crane operator has a theory. He says that the failure was probably caused by not lowering the jib boom / luffer before the main boom was lowered. He says you have to "stab the ground" with the jib/luffer in these situations, and the NYC crane operator didn't do that. Thoughts?
it was a pin jib crawler crane so that is very possible, it could well have been that paired with an unfortunate weather even like a gale force+ wind hitting the crane rear on....and it must have been a massive gust as normally in heavy wind you would face with the wind up your rear as there is least wind resistance
How do you poop and pee all the way up there?
if you need to pee theres a drum on the back with a funnel in it..... if you need to poop well too bad....wait until lunch climb down and poop
Does the drum seal? I'd imagine that would smell terrible.
Hahahahaha it has a funnel in the top and stays open, surprisingly it doesn't smell....
Did you practice before getting your gig?
All my training was on the job, you must know how to dog a crane (direct it from the ground) to understand driving a crane, both people must know each others jobs and you need to trust in your crew 100%
- What are you reading sitting in your cabin?
- Are you or were you at some point afraid of heights?
What am I reading as in what is the crane telling me that I'm reading..? Or when I'm doing nothing what book am I reading? I'll answer both, book is Alan watts the wisdom of insecurity and when I'm driving there are a few things I'm reading I'm watching the meter mark which tells me how far from the cabin the tip of the crane is you also watch the to gauge a speed of the jib when needs to be adjusted as it comes to the radius the dogman needs you at, like dribbling a soccer ball, as it swings away you chase it harder to catch the speed of the headache ball with the end of you crane so the hook comes down steady, your also watching the speed of your hook which is a seperate control and you can judge the speed it takes off at by looking at the winch run through the rear window, the computer can also tell you safe working load in Tonnes at your current jib distance...and if you have view of your workmates your watching them just in case you see something before they do and you need to stop to protect them, when I drive my main concern is my workmate, dogman and friend who I trust 100% is safe at all times, if I miss a command or anything seems not right I will let go of all controls just in case..... I've never been afraid of hights, I'm my spare time I love adrenalin sports, I like to feel a little scared sometimes so this job fits... Sometimes it's scary and hard but you get a real bond with guys whom you trust with your life in a way, it can be very rewarding when you as a team accomplish something that could be very dangerous
How much do the cranes sway in the wind? Any scary experiences?
Depending on how strong the wind is, at 20meters per second wind speed the crane were currently in rocks quite alot, it gets a good meter/meter and a half of sway, feels kind of like a washing machine, would be un nerving for a lot of people
1) What is your favorite pudding?
2) What did you think of the new Star Wars?
3) Are you really good at the crane game machines?
1) chocolate pudding 2)havnt seen it 3) Hahahaha im not Bad but they're rigged anyway
What do you do when you have to go to the bathroom, come all the way down?
Nope, if you need to pee theres a drum on the back with a funnel in it..... if you need to poop well too bad....wait until lunch climb down and poop
Do you put any flags, christmas lights, etc. on your crane?
Yep we tie union flags to our rope just above the headache ball to have an idea of wind direction without looking at the wind reader, we also have lights up the towers and around the deck of the crane, the tip of the jib has a red flashing light which is turned on so planes dont accidentlly hit the crane
Wait! I don't see one of the most important questions here people...WHERE exactly do you go to the bathroom after your lunch up there? Do you take advantage and crap on people pretending you're a pigeon?
if you need to pee theres a drum on the back with a funnel in it..... if you need to poop well too bad....wait until lunch climb down and poop, hahahahha the thought may have crossed my mind...
Favourite kind of bird? I am expecting a certain answer already...
There are some pretty mad birds around but to be honest I've never thought about a favourite.....not a crane anyway :)
Have you ever had to deal with urban explorers or BASE jumpers monkeying around on your crane? How do you think your construction company would handle such a situation?
The bottom of the tower is boxed up with a door that needs to be unlocked to start climbing and the hatch on the deck is also chained and padlocked, it would be difficult to cut the padlock in the position its in, plus you would have to be on a very high building for it to be of interest to base jumpers, how they would be handled, I would assume they would leave everyone off site and call in law enforcement, or if the driver got up and found them up there and got a fright they me get hurt....
How often do you get a new guy who makes you so nervous operation that thing, you tell them to "get the f--- out"?
Never, theres a process, new guy gets trained up on the job with the guys
Do you fear that something can go wrong at any time on the job?
How long did it take for you to specialize in crane operating?
I Dont fear something could go wrong, we have a strong union and safety is a huge priority on construction sites here, You never stop learning when driving a crane
What's your favorite kind of pizza?
I like a bbq meatlovers not from a big chain like dominoes, thin base light on toppings bacon, ham, salami, tomato paste good cheeses no bbq sauce, quality not quantity hahaha Are you in the US? when i visited I was in orange county and I love the pizza there from pizza press.... best pizza I had in America
Are you craning in Down town salt lake?
Hahahaha are you craning! Nah not down town salt lake, far from it! We're craning in Australia!
aw damn, i've seen alot of tower cranes around and some of those pics looked slightly fimiliar places. anyways cranes are cool AF Do you not say craning as the verb for crane?
Edit: forgot to ask a question.
Nah not here anyway! I've never heard anyone say craning.... It's just called driving here....or dogging a crane...or lifting
What is the name of your union? I'm a crane operator in So Cal (Local 12 Operating Engineers) and have always been interested in moving. Would it be hard to break into the union there?
I'm in Australia mate so I can't really help you...our union is the CFMEU and were very strong, it would be very very hard to get into a construction job period if you arnt a union member, they look out for our safety and make sure we're paid properly, check them out anyway if you like cfmeuvic.com.au
What's it like being a joystick slave and sleeping for most of the day?
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