For many small companies and hobbyists, a DIY overhead crane solution can appear to be an intelligent decision. By utilizing a few readily available components, such as wood or steel beams, a hoist, and some connection and reinforcement plates, a DIY crane could add some breathing room to small company budgets everywhere.


Unfortunately, while initially looking good on paper, the DIY crane option presents several safety and operational concerns that can cost a business both customers and revenue in the long run. This article will examine and discuss the inherent dangers of DIY cranes.



DIY Crane Materials


Readily accessible materials such as wood and steel I-beams can be found in most companies’ material yards or scrap piles. Typically stored outside, these materials are subject to weathering, warping, or insect damage that can dramatically impact the material’s performance and lifespan.


Mismatched components such as connection plates, bolts, turnbuckles, and shackles are also common and highly problematic. When these components are not made from the same material with equal Working Load Limits (WLL), the potential for load damage, component failure, and physical harm increases dramatically.


Without the proper engineering and component testing of their professionally assembled counterparts, DIY cranes put workers and materials at risk by creating an unsafe work environment.



DIY Crane Costs


Despite the reduced material costs, DIY cranes can quickly become a time-consuming and expensive project. The original design must be changed several times before or during the assembly process to address other issues, such as lift capacity, height, and reach.


Each hurdle or delay keeps workers from regularly scheduled tasks, quickly impacting productivity and the company’s bottom line.


DIY Crane Maintenance & Repairs


Since they don’t use standardized parts, components, or assemblies, DIY crane maintenance and repairs typically require more downtime than a professionally engineered crane assembly.


Off-the-shelf parts are more readily available for maintenance needs and emergency repairs, minimizing downtime. Standardized components cost significantly less than custom-made or one-off options typically incorporated into a DIY crane.



DIY Crane Safety Features


Since many DIY cranes are limited by the available tools, components, and materials, safety features may be non-existent or minimal. Any operating overhead crane is required to include various safety features, including:


  • Emergency stop button
  • Warning lights
  • Audible alarms
  • Upper limit switches
  • Load Limit Label on the hoist and crane certifying its limits


Every crane operator should be certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and follow the appropriate OSHA Guidelines:


OSHA 1910.176 General Material Handling

OSHA 1910.179 Overhead and Gantry Cranes

OSHA 1910.184 Slings


An operating crane’s final and most important safety feature is a properly trained and certified operator.


By utilizing on-hand components, DIY cranes also typically lack the options readily available with a pre-engineered crane assembly, including:


  • Industrial braking systems for reduced maintenance and repair costs
  • Precision gearing to minimize vibration
  • Automation technologies like snag detection or anti-sway
  • Radio controls
  • Solid-state DC control drives
  • Variable Frequency Drive (VFD system)


Each option can dramatically improve worker safety while increasing productivity and reducing maintenance costs.



DIY Crane Legal & Insurance Issues


Despite the potential pitfalls outlined above, the most significant challenges with DIY cranes involve insurability and liability.


Most liability insurance policies require that the crane:


  • Meet applicable engineering certifications
  • Meet all safety requirements
  • Receive regular inspections
  • Receive recommended maintenance
  • Be operated by a certified operator


Non-compliance will typically void most liability insurance policies. Since many DIY cranes lack one or more of these requirements, they might not be covered in the event of a claim or accident. As a result, the property owner, crane builder, and operator could ultimately be held responsible for any accidents or injuries during its operation.


Material handling is an inherently dangerous business. According to OSHA statistics, nearly 80% of crane upsets/failures occur while operating an overloaded crane, with DIY cranes having a substantially higher fail rate than properly engineered cranes.


Proper engineering, testing, and regular inspections are the only ways to establish the capacity of any crane correctly, and proper training is essential for any operator to keep materials and workers safe.


Let Hi-Speed help you with all your crane needs, including engineering and maintenance, to ensure maximum uptime and worker safety. You can email the Hi-Speed Crane Experts or call us today at 800-713-0103.