How To Plan Your Next Construction Crane Lift

Many construction projects have a crane lift on them and planning them correctly is a difficult process. There can be many different reasons for needing a crane on site, from moving a big piece of equipment onto site, pouring concrete, or installing windows, cranes have many different applications.

In today’s article we are going to walk through some of the basic requirements for a crane lift and things you should be looking for.

What You’ll Need to Start Planning Your Crane Lifts

Getting the basic tools and parties together to start planning your first lift is important. Starting out organized will help you to be more organized as the job get’s more complex.

People and Companies You’ll Need

  • A crane company (with an engineer)
  • A safety department
  • City staff (permits for roads, sidewalks, airspace, etc)
  • Superintendent and Project Manager for the project
  • Subcontractors and suppliers
  • Traffic control personnel (if necessary)

Some tools and equipment you’ll need

  • A binder with tabs to organize all of the information you’ll get
  • A crane
  • The equipment you’ll be lifting
  • Traffic control equipment (if necessary)
  • The crane itself and any related equipment (jib, extended boom, hook, counter-weights)

Information You’ll Need

  • The weights and sizes of equipment you’re lifting
  • A city services plan
  • Structural drawings for the building and surrounding structures
  • Geotechnical report
  • Weather report (for the day or days of the lifts)

Once you have everything in hand above let’s get started planning your lift.

Determining Your Requirements for a Construction Crane Lift (s)

Weight and Size of the Items

One of the first things you should do is establish what the crane will be for. What is the object you are lifting? Are there multiple’s of this object and or multiple objects?

Once you’ve determined what you’ll be lifting pull out the information on the products. Find the weight and dimensions of the object. A two tonne item that is the size of a person is a lot simpler to lift in some instances than a two tonne item the size of a school bus.

Determing the size and weight of the items you’ll be lifting will help you to determine the capacity requirements of your crane but there’s a third factor to consider. The location of the lift and final location of the product will also impact the size.

Location Matters

Pull out the drawings and determine the start and end points for your product. Determine where the product will be delivered and where it will need to end up, if there are multiple locations, mark out them all out on a drawing. This needs to be done in both a horizontal and a vertical direction.


The frequency of your lift will impact the type of crane. Need regular lifting (day to day) but don’t want to close a lane, you may need to put in a semi-permanent tower crane or derrick crane. Need one large lift – a mobile crane may be your best bet.

Just in case the above doesn’t quite make sense, we’ve included a chart below which indicates what each type of crane will be best used for to help in your decision making.

Crane TypeSpace Requirements for SetupFrequency of Lift (Days Between Lifts)Capacity (Amount it can carry)Mobility (Set Up and During Lift)
Borderson Crane Low Frequent LowHigh
Tower Crane – Standard Medium FrequentMedium Low
Tower Crane – Luffer Medium Frequent HighLow
Derrick Crane Low Frequent LowMedium
Mobile Crane High Low HighMedium
Crawler Crane High Low HighMedium

Once you’ve made a selection on the type of crane you plan on going with it’s time to start finalizing the location of it.

There’s a number of people you’ll need to start consulting at this point but some basic advice will be to get an engineer involved. They will help you to determine the correct size for the crane and make recommendations on any special attachments that are required (more on this a little later).

Finalizing the location of your crane comes next. Some things to ask yourself are: what are the site restrictions? Do I have adjacent structures surrounding the lift point that could limit the swing radius? Is there existing structure that I could need to shore? Are there subsurface services or tunnels that would need to be protected or reinforced during the lift?

If the location has been settled, put together a high level drawing indicating the crane, swing radius and final locations of all of the pick and drop off points. Highlight any surrounding structures and underground services that the operator and team need to be aware of. Distribute this to the group including your engineer for review. The engineer will need to draw up a formal document, stamped with all of the loads and lifting weights noted.

Of special note – as loads get further away from the central hub of the crane the capacity decreases and therefore a larger crane may be required for smaller lifts that have to travel a long distance.


Planning Your Day (s) of Lifting

Remember that binder we mentioned earlier, open it up and begin preparing it. We recommend including the following items within the binder, alot of these documents will need to be developed with your team and will help to keep your information organized:

Executive Summary – this is a high level summary of the lift for those interested in getting the coles notes. Include the purpose for the lift, location, time date and summary of the pick points and crane type and size.

Contact List – this is important, communication on the day or days of the lift is important and it’s good to have everyone’s contact information in one spot. This should include all points of contact for all companies involved in the lift.

Engineered Crane Layout and Cutsheets – include all information related to the crane layout and the cutsheets on the piece of equipment on the crane. This should include the final signed off drawing from the engineer we mentioned earlier.

Permits – theres a long list of permits you may need – this could include a permit for air rights, road close permit, even the building permit could be good to include in this section.

Safety Tab 1 – Activity Specific Safety Plan – this is a critical piece of information, and should be developed with all those involved. Include a detail job hazard analysis. Each trade should have their own JHA

Safety Tab 2 – Safety and Emergency Response Plan – Include the general safety plan for the contractors and an emergency response plan incase something is to go awry.

Schedule – develop a detailed schedule with your team. This schedule needs to include the time and duration of the lift setup. What time each of your loads will be delivered to site and the time required for each of them. A good practice for this is to also include the contact for each of the lifts so people know who to contact in the event something isn’t going as planned.

Insurances – there’s likely going to be some hefty insurances provided from each of the vendors. Make sure it’s provided by everyone and filed in the event it’s required.

Traffic Control Plan – unless you’re building in an open field there’s a good chance your deliveries or lifting will impact traffic and or pedestrian flow. This should be included in the binder as well and should mark all controls clearly as well as include a description for any flagmen or police.

Other Information – we like to include a tab with other information or correspondence at the end of the binder. This section can include things such as delivery routes (if you have oversized loads coming to site), communication with your owner, and other pertinent information you feel you might need on the day of the actual lift.

Let’s Do This – The Big Day of the Construction Crane Lift

The big day or day’s are here, and you’re justifiably nervous (though if you have all of the above information in hand you’re about as prepared as you can be). Start the day early (we mean 4AM early) and arrive first to site to give yourself some time to mentally prepare for the day.

Start the day off by bringing all parties into a meeting room and doing a huddle, go over who is responsible for what, what the schedule is and appoint a go / no go point of contact for the day and each of the deliveries.

Collect everyone’s information including the crane drivers certifications and crane certifications. Make sure everyone fills out the site specific job hazard analysis and signs off on the safety plan.

one important thing to understand is that the crane operator ultimately has the last say on a crane lift. If they feel the least bit uncomortable about a situation they can call off the lift. Respect their opinion. Becoming an operator takes lots of training and often times they know best.

Be mindful of your schedule throughout the day, if your permits have time limit watch them closely, make sure communication is open. Consider assigning a radio channel for the team so everyone know’s what’s going on.

construction crane lift planning


Celebrate or Re-Group

The big day or days have come and gone and things either went well or haven’t. Take time to celebrate your accomplishments as a team. It’s important to reward people for their work. If thing’s didn’t go as planned, start by understanding what went wrong and plan your next day.

A successful crane lift can be a lot of work and you should always go into it prepared. Be kind to people around you and understanding of their requirements. This will be something you’ll likely do a few times in your career so take time to reflect on your lessons learned both good and bad.

Think you have what it takes to plan a crane lift? Let us know if you’ve done one in the past and what you think about our guide in the comments!

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