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Cranes are the most effective way to move heavy loads on a construction site, and proper use of crane hand signals is a vital part of safe operation. After learning basic crane hand signals, a signal person is able to safely direct a crane operator to raise and lower the boom, hoist and lower the load, or move the load horizontally — and, of course, to stop the crane in case of emergency.

Importantly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that anyone designated as a signal person must meet certain qualifications and be evaluated by a qualified individual. These regulations and a commitment to standardized signals have helped reshape the landscape of crane safety, with crane-related deaths falling to their lowest recorded level in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Below, we have a visual guide to basic crane hand signals, including a few signals that are particular to telescopic, crawler and tower cranes. In any case, crane hand signals are essential whether using a small carry deck crane or a larger all-terrain crane—these signals are even used with the largest cranes in the world.

Read on for a list of signals, or jump straight to our infographic and a downloadable version of the crane hand signals chart.

Stop Signals

Stop signals are the most important signals for crane operation because they enable a signal person to quickly communicate the need to cease movement and activity.

Boom and Load Signals

Boom signals instruct the crane operator to raise or lower the boom, which is the long arm extending out from a crane. There are three common boom signals:

Load signals instruct the crane operator to raise or lower the load using the crane’s hoist, which is the long chain with a hook that attaches to the load. There are two common load signals:

Keep in mind that raising and lowering the boom changes the load radius, so you may need to use combination commands to keep the crane within safe operating limits. There are two common combination commands:

There are also a few boom commands that are specific to telescopic cranes, which have booms that can extend and retract. There are two essential commands for telescopic cranes:

Travel Signals

Cranes themselves can be moved, and hand signals help communicate to the operator how to move the crane in a safe way in the desired direction.

Crane Hand Signals Promote Jobsite Safety

Knowledge of crane hand signals helps to ensure the safe operation of cranes —whether small carry deck cranes or large all-terrain cranes — which often weigh thousands of pounds and carry enormous loads. Using standardized hand signals helps maintain continuity between job sites and promotes safety across the entire construction industry.

Download a PDF version of our crane hand signals reference chart below to take with you to the job site.

Below, see a visual reference of all of the most important crane hand signals that anyone working on a construction site should know.

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