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3 common causes of crane failure and how to avoid them

Thinking about hiring a crane but worried about crane failure?

Moving large and heavy loads is crucial in manufacturing and construction industries today and, thanks to huge strides in technology, crane hire makes it possible to build higher and faster than ever before. But, despite new approaches to training and the implementation of extensive safety precautions, cranes can (and sadly do) fail.

Although most crane failures are unavoidable and occur as the result of prolonged use, such incidents can be detrimental for businesses and cause injury to employees, damage to the crane and/or plant, costly repairs and downtime.

That’s why we thought we’d share the most common causes of crane failure with you – and the signs you need to keep an eye out for – to ensure you can prevent them before they escalate into something much worse.


  1. Electrical faults

Several things can go wrong with the crane’s electrics, the most common being:

  • Sticking or welded contacts – often, this is what happens when a contactor fails to energise (in other words, the motor doesn’t start) or because the motor won’t stop when the run command is removed.
  • Electronic component failure – when a crane is being used, project after project, it’s inevitable that the components will become worn over time. It’s possible that the electronic components, including mechanical parts, electrical controls and hydraulic system, can fail.

Given that the cause of an electrical fault can be wide-ranging and unpredictable, all of the electrical parts of the crane must be properly maintained and inspected periodically by a professional. This will ensure that nothing is sticking and reduce the risk of failure.


  1. Misuse of equipment

Needless to say, lifting operations can be dangerous if not executed properly. With that said, the crane and operator must be supervised at all times as any mishandling of the crane, or swinging of its load, can result in serious consequences (i.e. injury or damage to the crane and surroundings).

Things to look out for include:

  • Operators lifting loads at an angle that can cause wear on the ropes and the load to swing.
  • Using the pendant cable to turn long items around, in turn, putting extra strain on the crane.
  • Careless planning of routes and lifts, which can result in cranes bumping into each other and serious damage.
  • Disregarding recommended lift loads and lifting too much weight, meaning the crane will tip over or malfunction.
  • Turning loads over whilst being lifted can cause shock loads and tension. Cranes cannot withstand a dramatic increase or decrease in load and operate at a safe steady speed.

To ensure your crane doesn’t fail as a result of mishandling, always make sure that you understand the manufacturer’s guidelines and employ the most competent personnel for the job. Or, better still, hand over the responsibility of your crane hire to a reputable company like us at Bryn Thomas Cranes.


  1. Worn components

Typically, a crane is made up of many different components – all of which need to be frequently maintained to ensure they function effectively. Otherwise, it can cause excessive wear and the crane will eventually fail.

A top tip is to always check the gearbox. If an oil leak occurs, it will likely need replacing. This can be a time-consuming and expensive task, so it’s well worth checking regularly so you can spot the signs early.

The brakes are prone to wear and tear over time so, to avoid unplanned downtime, you want to inspect them often.

The gearing and bearings will need your attention too. These require adequate lubrication (grease for wire ropes and oil for ball bearings) to function properly. Similarly, a hoist can damage within a matter of weeks if it isn’t lubricated and hoist ropes can splinter if they are dry or rusty.

The solution to avoid worn components? Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t skip frequent checks and examinations. Although it may take a couple of hours to check every component, it will ensure the safety of your workers, reduce downtime and expand the lifespan of your equipment.


Eliminate the risk of crane failure today

Minimising the threat of crane failure is in your business’ best interest – allowing you to complete lifts without a hitch. What’s more, it’s a legal requirement for all cranes to undergo regular inspections to ensure that they are safe to use and CPA (Construction Plant Hire Association) compliant.

The good news is, as a leading crane hire company in the UK, we heavily invest in our fleet each year to ensure that we provide the very best cranes for our customers, here at Bryn Thomas Cranes. No matter which crane you choose, and whether you opt for CPA crane hire or a contract lift, we always provide a crane that is properly maintained, tested and certified to eliminate crane failure.

To find out more about our crane hire services and our duty as a crane owner, get in touch today. Either call our head office on 01352 733 984 or send us an online message via our enquiry form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

3 common causes of crane failure FAQs

Although cranes are an invaluable piece of equipment used on construction and industrial sites to lift and move heavy goods, they can be extremely dangerous if they are not operated safely.

Since 2000, there have been 5 major incidents involving the collapse of a tower crane in the UK alone – including:

• Canary Wharf (2000)

• Worthing (2005)

• Battersea (2006)

• Liverpool (2007)

• Croydon (2007)

• Liverpool (2009)

Investigations were carried out after these accidents, and the causes were very different. The information obtained has been used to help the UK crane industry improve safety.

There are lots of reasons why a crane might fail.

For example, extreme weather conditions could make it difficult to stabilise the crane. Strong winds may cause it to wobble before toppling over completely, whilst poor visibility in fog and rain could prevent the operator from being able to assess potential hazards.

In some cases, the crane may buckle or collapse due to excess weight or improper setup. Alternatively, falling debris or hazardous conditions surrounding the crane may contribute to crane accidents.

Other common causes of crane failure include misuse and poor lift planning, foundation issues and electrical faults.

If you suspect there is a problem with your hired crane, we urge you to contact us immediately.

You may have heard a loud scraping sound or noticed abnormal wear on the wheels or bearings.

If the crane is blowing fuses more often than not, this implies you have a faulty circuit which could put your entire team at risk.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is bent or damaged hooks. When they start to bend, they are more likely to break and drop the load.

The sooner you identify defects, the sooner they can be dealt with – reducing the risk to you, your team and the load in question.

For more tips on spotting a crane failure before it’s too late, call Bryn Thomas Cranes on 01352 733 984.

The consequences of crane failure can be catastrophic – causing injury to workers, damage to the crane and plant equipment, high repair costs and increased downtime.

But the good news is, with regular maintenance and proper operation, such risks can be minimised.

A reputable crane hire company, like us at Bryn Thomas Cranes, will ensure that every crane undergoes frequent inspections to ensure they are in working order and safe for use on your construction or industrial site.

To find out how else we can help you to prevent crane failure, send us a message via our online enquiry form and we’ll get back to you.

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