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The importance of planning for lifting operations

Across many industries, whether it’s bringing in new supplies, moving materials about on site, or carrying out maintenance work, lifting is a crucial part of daily activities and keeping operations moving.

However, dealing with moving objects at height can put people at risk if it goes wrong so thorough lift planning and supervision is vital to ensuring the safety of operations. Planning can be varied depending on the lifting operations involved, for a straightforward, routine lift it may be the responsibility of the person carrying it out (e.g. a crane operator). For a more complex lift the plan needs to be developed by someone with the appropriate knowledge, training, skills, and expertise which meet the detail of the scope.

Proper planning and supervision ensures that risk is assessed and mitigated against, the correct equipment is used, and work is carried out efficiently and safely. With over 45 years’ experience in specialist lifting and handling operations our expert teams have developed solutions and lift plans for all types of projects.

Planning for large equipment replacement

At a large rubber manufacturing plant in Oklahoma, the gearbox was being replaced by the manufacturer. Due to the location of the gearbox in the plant it was difficult to move and required a lifting solution to complete the work.

The old gearbox was positioned next to other equipment and under walkway flooring with no crane access. The gearbox weighed 23 tonnes and had to be moved through the plant and in industrial elevators to get from its position to the entry/exit of the building, with the replacement gearbox brought in the same way.

A site survey was undertaken after which the chosen solution was to engineer a jib crane to attach to a nearby boom, this was the best option to hold the weight of the gearbox. The crane was custom designed, including custom hinges to hold it on the beam and a custom load chart, and it was built in two pieces to allow it to move through the plant.

Part of the mezzanine walkway floor above the gearbox was removed and cabling and lighting taken out to allow the crane access to lift the gearbox. Due to the weight of the gearbox, the flooring and elevators couldn’t accommodate it in one piece so it was disassembled before lifting.

With so many elements to the lift, removal of the old gearbox and installation of the new one, every step had to be planned. A model of the gearbox was provided by the manufacturer for lift planning and the lift was simulated on CAD before implementation. The whole replacement was carried out in seven days during a planned shutdown, with four weeks prior to undertake the engineering and testing of the solution. Ensuring the replacement was completed on time was crucial to avoiding delays to plant operations.

Managing lifting operations in major shutdowns

Some operations might require planning for multiple lifts during a project, as was the case with a UK North Sea operator.

The operator was carrying out major outages across three assets to implement essential maintenance and improve productivity, efficiency and performance. With production shutdown it was critical to ensure that the correct planning, risk assessment and appropriate mitigations were identified and applied to all activities. There was no defined work scope so all levels and complexities of lifting that might be required were identified and planned for – from routine deck operations through to complex rigging and lifting operations. Quick and efficient turnaround of scopes was essential and time constraints on some projects were a major challenge to prevent impacting other work.

A lifting operations specialist was integrated into each asset’s onshore teams in the client’s office and Sparrows’ operations, logistics, rigging, inspection, and supply chain departments all coordinated through the specialist to identify the requirements for each scope. Each job included the supply of lifting procedures, rigging equipment and personnel to carry out offshore implementation.

Although each project or outage’s work scope changed in the planning stages we were able to react through the re-prioritisation of deliverables and delivery of alternative solutions. During the campaign, the Sparrows team carried out over 30,000 work hours (onshore and offshore), and over 300 lifting plans were developed and executed to successfully change out 1,000 pieces of critical equipment.

Global lifting operations

Planning lifts is a critical part of any lifting operation, it ensures the safety of people involved and prevents personnel injury, but knowing what actions are required also avoids lost time and impact on other operations. Major projects may have one complex lift that has a number of steps, or jobs may involve multiple, smaller lifts but it is important that each stage is detailed out.

Although Sparrows built our years of experience providing lifting and handling services to oil and gas operators, the fundamentals of lift planning are the same in any environment and we have diversified our expertise into new sectors. The offshore energy industry has a strong safety culture and by applying these high standards to other sectors we can support safe lifting operations across global industries.

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