Health, Safety, Security and Environment

Photo of the day: Run Project safely with Crane Hand Signals

8 min read

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. Ask any crane operator and they will tell you that one of the main factors for a successful project is coordination. 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.

Using crane hand signals while working in sync with your team on the ground is not only crucial for safety but can help your project run smoothly, on schedule, and keep the boss happy. 

With absolute precision and accuracy needed for a job, being able to clearly communicate direction is critical but this is not always an easy task. 

Construction sites can be exceptionally loud and busy, meaning verbal communication is at risk of being drowned out by roaring machinery.

So how does an operator, with a load suspended in the air, follow instructions from their team? Using the simple but effective method of crane hand signals. In the Photo of today, you will be familiar with the basic and commonly used crane hand signals, including a few signals that are particular to telescopic, crawler, and tower cranes in addition you will learn The Role of a Crane Hand Signal Person

crane Hand signals

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.

Crane hand signals provide a simple solution for the communication issues faced by crane operators. 

Although radios can be used to relay messages across the site, there are some situations when an operator will need extra assistance.

Construction sites are loud. They produce a high level of noise from activities such as digging, piling, and drilling, therefore it can be difficult to convey instruction in an accurate and time-efficient way. 

There are also times when an operator’s directional visibility is obstructed or the visibility of a load area is partially blocked, conducting a lift within these types of conditions can put the operator and the workers around them at serious risk of injury.

Although it is recommended to use crane hand signals during all lifts, it is in these situations when a signal person will definitely be called upon. 

Easy to understand, crane hand signals help the operator avoid any potential hazards, completing actions in a safe and timely manner.( Critical Lifts )

The Role of a Crane Hand Signal Person

As the eyes and the ears of a dedicated area or crane, a crane hand signal person carries many responsibilities. 

Before a person can direct the operation of a crane they must first undergo formal training and complete a qualification in crane signaling. 

In training, a person will not only develop an understanding of standard crane hand signals but they will also be required to become familiar with many different types of cranes, how each crane functions and any hand signals specific to particular equipment. 

The trainee signal person is required to grasp an understanding of the large library of signals without any memory prompts and show competence in recalling these during an examination by a third-party provider.

The crane hand signal person is also responsible for preventing injury and accidents to the best of their ability, this is done by following strict procedure during crane operation, for instance standing in clear view of the crane operator, ensuring the operating area is clear of people or hazardous objects and performing one signal at a time to avoid confusion.

Commonly Used Crane Hand Signals

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard method of signaling must be used when operating a crane unless non-standard crane hand signals are discussed during the pre-job meeting. 

OSHA enforces standards and training requirements for safe working environments across multiple industries, including construction in the United States.

Stop signals

Stop signals are one the most important crane hand signals used on a construction site. When stop signals are used operation of the equipment must be halted.

  1. Emergency stop – A signal person will communicate an emergency stop by extending both arms horizontal of the body with palms faced down, from this position they will swing their arms back and forth.
  2. Stop – In order to pause or stop an action, the signal person will extend a single arm and face their palm down; they will then begin to swing the extended arm back and forth.
  3. Dog everything – This signal will stop all activity and is performed by clasping hands together and placing them at waist level.
Emergency Stop
Dog Everything

Boom signals

Boom signals will inform the crane operator of which maneuver they should perform with the boom.

  1. Raise boom – To raise the boom, a signal person will extend an arm horizontally to the side of their body and signal thumbs up, with a closed fist.
  2. Lower boom – In order to lower the boom the signal person will extend an arm horizontally and signal thumbs down, with a closed fist.
  3. Swing boom – To swing the boom, the signal person will extend an arm out horizontally, using their index finger to point in the direction the boom is to swing.
  4. Extend boom – To lengthen the boom, the signal person will place their hands at the front of their waist and point thumbs outwards with remaining fingers in a fist.
Lower the load
Raise the load

Extend Boom

Load signals

Load signals will dictate what the operator should do with a load once it has been lifted by the crane.

  1. Hoist load – In order to lift the load upwards the signal person will extend their arm vertically towards the ceiling/sky, point with their index finger and make small circles with their hand and index finger.
  2. Lower load – To lower the load downward, the signal person will extend their arm horizontally, pointing their index finger towards the ground, once in this position they will make a circle motion with their finger.

Speed signals

The signal person can also control the pace of any movement using speed signals.

  1. Move slowly – In order to slow the rate of an action, the signal person will a place their hand above the hand which is giving the action signal.

Move Slowly


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.

Safety is the number one concern for crane operators, a person performing the crane hand signals stands at a vantage point that allows them to view the load area from a perspective that is not visible to the crane operator. 

( Read more about Mobile Cranes: Basic Terms You Should Know )

Now you can download the Infographic of Crane Hand Signals and post at your workplace

Download the infographic

Crane Hand Signals

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