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Dogging with Radios: A Guide to Using Radios in Crane Operations

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

The use of two-way radios for communication in the crane industry has become an essential part of day-to-day lifting operations.



Radios are typically used in situations where the load being lifted is not visible to the crane operator and/or dogger or where hand signals may not be clearly seen due to factors such as the height of the load, height of the lift, distance, obstructions, weather conditions, or multiple lift operators.


While radios can greatly improve communication and safety in crane operations, it is essential to follow recognised standard procedures when using radios in crane operations. Here are some additional safety tips and value-adds to keep in mind when using radios in crane operations:


The Value of Using Radios in Crane Operations


  1. Improved Communication: Radios provide a more efficient and reliable means of communication between the crane operator and the dogger, improving the overall safety of the operation.

  2. Greater Visibility: Radios can improve visibility and awareness of the job site, including potential hazards and obstacles that may not be immediately visible to the crane operator.

  3. Efficiency: Radios can help increase the efficiency of the operation by reducing the need for the crane operator to rely solely on visual cues or hand signals.

  4. Reduced Risk of Accidents and Injuries: The use of radios can reduce the risk of miscommunication between the crane operator and the dogger, which can lead to a safer working environment and fewer accidents and injuries.


Prior to Commencement of Task


Before starting any task on site, the radios to be used must have an operating safety check to ensure they are performing satisfactorily and the battery is charged. A spare battery should also be available.


Using Dedicated Channel for Each Lifting Operation


A dedicated channel should be used for each lifting operation. Check for other radios in use on the site.


Familiarising with Worksite Procedures


Operators should familiarise themselves with any particular worksite procedures regarding the use of radio communication on that particular site.


Adopting Constant Talk Method


A constant talk method should be adopted, requiring the radio users to talk in such a manner that the progress of the task is continuously made known to people involved at all times.


With modern radios this can be harder to achieve as digital radios will time out and may prevent transmission break through. Ideally use an Analogue Radio for Crane Operations.


Let's talk radio types.


Analogue Radio

  • Features: Push-to-talk, scanning, simple group conversations, limited encryption.

  • Signal Type: Continuous analogue signals with frequency modulation.

Advantages:

  • Natural voice communication preferred by many users.

  • Larger product and accessory selection due to its longer existence.

  • Good bandwidth usage.

  • Well-understood by the general public.

  • Suitable for crane operations due to minimal signal delay.


Digital Radio

  • Features: Operates in digital mode, supports GPS, data tracking, multiple simultaneous conversations, text messaging, emergency alarms.

Advantages:

  • More simultaneous talking paths and embeddable information.

  • Reduced bandwidth consumption.

  • Compatible with existing infrastructure.

  • New software applications available.

Disadvantages:

  • Delayed signal transmission; not suitable for crane operations.

  • Higher cost.

  • Learning curve for first-time users.

  • Susceptible to radio frequency noise.


Trunked Radio

  • Features: Computer-controlled, locks out other users from selected frequency.

  • Use Case: Good for a central control station communicating with several groups at different locations.

Recommendation:

Not suitable for crane industry. Point-to-point analogue radios with area-wide license are recommended for least delay in crane operations.


Taking Radio Instructions from One Competent Person Only


To eliminate any misunderstanding, crane operators should normally take radio instructions from one competent person only. Special circumstances may require specific arrangements to be put in place when using more than two radios.


Maintaining Radios


To ensure reliable and prolonged service, all radios must be kept fully charged, dry and handled with care.


Loss or Deterioration of Radio Communication


All crane operators must cease immediately if any loss or deterioration of radio communication occurs. Be aware of interference and signals from other radio users.


Using radios in crane operations is an important safety measure that can help prevent accidents and injuries on the job site. By following recognised standard procedures and safety tips and understanding the value-adds of using radios in crane operations, workers can have a safer working environment, which leads to better efficiency and productivity.


Ready, Set, Lift


Pre-Lift Protocols:


Soundcheck First!


Before the crane roars to life, ensure your radio is primed for perfect communication.


Here’s a quick checklist to get started:


  • Dial up the volume.

  • Confirm you’re tuned into the right channel.

  • Complete a radio check and listen-in and fine-tune your volume for listening.


Communication is the lifeline between the crane operator and the ground crew. Opt for the ‘constant talk’ approach, keeping all parties in the loop, in real-time, throughout the task.


When working with multiple ground crew, appoint a lead dogman. Make sure everyone is in sync about who’s calling the shots before you get started and ensure everyone knows they can stop the lift.


During the Lift


Keep these tips in your pocket:


  • Be a good listener. Wait for a clear channel before you transmit.

  • Hold the ‘Push To Talk’ button and maintain a 10-15cm mic-to-mouth distance. Speak clearly and at a conversational volume.

  • Shield your mic from the elements: wind, background noise, rain, and debris.

  • All directions should be operator-centric. Repeat directions to avoid any missteps.


Here’s your quick guide to common crane jargon for seamless operation:


  • “Hookup-Hookdown” for hook movements.

  • “Boomup-Boomdown” to articulate the boom.

  • “Slewleft-Slewright” for lateral movements.

  • “All clear” for the OK to lift, and “Stop” for halting actions.


You can also add details about distance, speed and the situation you see to truly paint a 3D picture for the operator.


Safety First:


Never swing the radio by its antenna. If you spot a glitch, send an immediate ‘stop’ or ‘emergency stop’ alert.


Freeze all operations if:


  • Communication breaks down or gets garbled.

  • An unexpected ‘stop’ signal is received.

  • The operator needs to confer with the ground crew.


Communication hiccups?


Stop!


Resume operations only when you’ve established a clear line, retested the devices, and received an unequivocal go-ahead signal.


When in doubt, stop operations until everyone’s concerns are addressed.


If radio contact can’t be re-established, only proceed when you’ve switched to a fail-proof communication method.

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