This article emphasizes the importance of safety standards and codes developed by ASME for ensuring construction safety. Within the committee framework managed by ASME, the B30 standards committee is always looking to incorporate the industry's latest technological advances and best practices. While the basic principles of ancient machines are still applicable in many modern lifting devices, advances in materials and technology have allowed for cranes to be adapted to aid in accomplishing difficult and unusual tasks. Some cranes are even used to erect other cranes, which then go on to build the skyscrapers that dot our skyline. Even with all these changes, ensuring safety is just as important today as it was in 1916. ASME is leading the way in helping to ensure cranes can be a common and essential part of the everyday landscape.


Metropolitan areas are constantly under construction. Old buildings get torn down and new, even taller ones spring up to replace them. From one year to the next, the skyline is transformed. For commuters, such as the ASME employees who work at our headquarters at 2 Park Avenue, all that construction barely registers.

In recent years, for instance, a corner near the ASME headquarters in Manhattan, past which many ASME employees have to walk each day to catch their trains home, has been the scene of constant activity as two tall buildings have been erected. And while the construction created a bit of inconvenience as pedestrians dodged under scaffolding, it's likely that no one stopped to wonder at the cranes, hoists, and other equipment moving 100 feet overhead.

It's the same for motorists driving through road construction sites or past facilities loading containers onto ships or rail carriages. Cranes and other heavylifting machines are such a part of our everyday lives that many of us probably don’t even realize how many we see in a given day.

In a way, that's too bad, since cranes are essential to the maintenance and expansion of modern metropolitan areas. Cranes not only help build the infrastructure we use to work and travel through, but they are critical parts of the containerized cargo system that is the basis of the 21st century supply chain. Cranes, derricks, hoists, and similar lifting equipment move equipment in factories, transfer inventory into and out of warehouses, pick up metal in scrap yards, and sometimes lift objects in our own backyards.

One reason why we can live so easily with cranes is because we trust that they will be used safely. ASME plays an essential role: Beginning in 1916, ASME has developed a code of safety standards, now known as B30, which have helped enable industry to enforce the best practices while reflecting the latest technological advances. Today ASME publishes 28 volumes of B30, with additional ones in development, under the title ASME B30 Safety Standard for Cableways, Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Hooks, Jacks, and Slings, with the assistance of over three hundred volunteers from industry and government, who participate on the standards committee and subcommittees.

Working on an ASME B30 committee is often invigorating, generally satisfying and at times patience-building. The time and energy given to this well-designed consensus process is always worthwhile because of the committee folks you get to work with and the industries that you get to work for.

— Mike Parnell ITI-Field Service

Participation in the ASME B30 consensus standards writing process has been one of the most personally rewarding activities I have ever been part of. Where else can an individual interested in promulgating safety in the workplace aid in improving an entire industry while working hand in hand with many knowledgeable and respected persons with a wide breadth of expertise? The end result of the hundreds of hours of effort is multiple safety standards that address, literally, all phases of the load-handling field of endeavor.

— Larry Means Means Engineering


As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the B30 codes, it is worth looking back on a bit of its history.

Cranes in History

Lifting machines represent some of the earliest technology humankind developed. For example, historians know that hoists and cranes were used by the ancient Greeks, both for construction and in theaters to lift actors playing the gods. While the earliest cranes were powered by men or work animals pulling on ropes, later cranes employed the use of human-powered treadwheels, which permitted the lifting of heavier weights. Harbor cranes, for instance, were introduced in the Middle Ages to move cargo and help construct ships

The earliest cranes were made from wooden beams. But new materials were introduced in the late 1700s, during the first Industrial Revolution. Iron and steel parts and steam power enabled cranes to increase their loads and work rates—and paved the way for the adoption of the factory systems. The boom in the amount of goods produced by factories and the revolution in transportation created by steamships and railways meant that the use of cranes, hoists, and other lifting equipment expanded like never before.

Unfortunately, the growth in crane use raced ahead of the guidelines for their safe design and operation. The people who used lifting equipment on the job—dockworkers, railroad yardmen, and factory workers—were suffering injuries due to unsafe operation or designs. In the first decades of the 20th century, various stakeholders—ranging from the Locomotive Crane Manufacturers Association and the Association of Iron and Steel Electrical Engineers to federal agencies such as the Department of Navy and the U.S. Department of Labor—began to press for standards to enhance safety.

ASME played a key role in this movement.

In 1915, nine ASME members, led by John Price Jackson, dean of the engineering school at Pennsylvania State College, were tasked with examining the best practices in crane operations and how to promote them throughout industry. At the Society's 1916 annual meeting that group, the ASME Committee on the Protection of Industrial Workers, presented an eight-page document, Code of Safety Standards for Cranes. A summary of that document, published in the November 1916 Journal of ASME, listed 40 rules for general construction, 22 rules for operation, six rules for the floormen who signal to the operators, and six for repairmen.

Some of these seem obvious now— “Operators should not eat, smoke, or read while on duty”—but were revolutionary at the time. The section about construction addressed concerns such as the material and design requirements for the cranes’ structural components, and other equipment. It also required many of the common safety features that we take for granted, such as mandating the construction of footwalks, platforms, and railing to allow for safe crane access, and requiring clear and visible marking of the hoist capacity to avoid potential overload.

Other sections mandated regular inspections of the crane for loose parts or defects and introduced the first standard for manual hand signals given by signalpersons on the floor to operators. Hand signals are used by signalpersons to help control the load's movement. In factory settings or in busy dockyards, voices are lost in the din; that makes the visual communication carried via standardized hand signals crucial to ensuring safe and efficient operation. The hand signals developed in 1916 unambiguously communicate to the operator whether to hoist or lower the load, and the direction and speed the load should travel.

Those standard hand signals are still used today and the ASME hand signal charts have become the industry standard used worldwide.

Expanding the Scope

The presentation of the 1916 code was not the last word on crane safety, but the beginning of a larger process for developing standards for use by manufacturers, users, insurance carriers, and regulatory authorities. And the scope expanded, too, from the electric traveling cranes, jib cranes, monorail cranes, and hand-powered cranes specifically mentioned by the Committee on the Protection of Industrial Workers to cover devices as varied as overhead gantry and locomotive cranes, derricks, hoists, slings, and chains.

Within 10 years of the issuance of 1916 code, a Sectional Committee was formed and work began expanding the 1916 Code, resulting by 1943 in the first two standards in the current series that would be developed under ASME's B30 Committee activity. The B30.1 Safety Code for Jacks was developed to provide guidance for the use of all portable manually operated jacks (except those that are supplied with automobiles, which ASME has separate standards for).

The 1943 edition of the B30.1 covered several different kinds of jacks, including lever and ratchet, screw, and hydraulic, all of which are used to lift and lower loads. The second volume published in 1943—B30.2 Safety Code for Cranes, Derricks and Hoists—covered the remaining types of commonly used cranes in industry at the time. That included overhead and gantry cranes, jib cranes, mobile cranes, derricks, hoists, slings, chains, and ropes.

Over time, stakeholders realized that the B30 standards needed to better reflect the changes in design, advancement in techniques, and general safety interests of labor and industry. In 1962, the format of the standard was revised to allow separate B30 volumes to cover different types of equipment. In that way, each B30 volume could be expanded to cover additional areas beyond construction and operation requirements to deal with installation, testing inspection, and maintenance requirements.

For example, in 1968 the committee published the first B30.5 cranes standard to handle crawler, locomotive, and truck cranes. ASME and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command jointly sponsored the committee's work to make that new volume. Around that time, the original committee swelled from 39 to 57 members and alternates representing 35 organizations, including the Factory Mutual Engineering Corporation, the American Insurance Association, and the AFL-CIO. That first 24-page volume made possible the safe use of mobile cranes, which are a common slight along freeways for bridge construction or building construction. The B30.5 today is one of the most widely utilized ASME B30 volumes.

I joined ASME while still in college and volunteered for many of their projects and activities. I got involved with the B30 committee about 15 years ago in order to increase my knowledge and capabilities, and I have learned much since then. I have been able to give back to the committee and their members through my efforts to improve the standard and by sharing the knowledge I have gained through my different experiences.

— Phil Boyd The Boeing Company

If we as an industry don’t police ourselves, someone else will. We can do a better job of it.

— David Duerr 2DM Associates

The consensus process B30 uses, which includes so many different subject-matter experts, and ASME's Policies and Procedures, guarantees the development of quality standards that can confidently be used by those in the crane and crane-associated industries.

— Gene Owens Consultant

I have worked with B30 type of equipment for 34 years using the B30 standards and have now been involved with B30 Committee work since 2001. Working with the various members of the different committees has allowed me to incorporate my experiences and expertise into helping form the standards used in this industry to make the equipment we cover safer for the people using and operating them. It has been an honor to work with this group of dedicated individuals for the betterment of our society.

— Alan Egging National Oilwell Varco

Individual volumes are not intended to be a step-by-step design guide, but each one recommends actions intended to enhance safety during the construction, testing, inspections, maintenance, and operation of cranes. Safe and reliable operation of load-handling equipment involves paying close attention to such factors as design, selection, installation, erection, dismantling, and use of the load handling equipment.

The final design needs to meet performance-based requirements such as passing the load test requirements or following the marking requirements outlined in the B30 volumes. The volumes also outline requirements for regular inspection and maintenance to ensure that equipment will continue to operate safely within their design parameters throughout the life of the crane.

In addition, the B30 volumes also outline requirements for safe operation of the equipment by defining criteria for operator qualifications and providing operation guidelines and operating practices for attaching, holding and moving the load. Standard hand signals continue to be outlined for the equipment, and special guidance for operating in the vicinity of power lines is also provided. In recognition that the operator may not be in charge of all aspects of the job site or equipment maintenance, B30 volumes have recently begun to include specific responsibilities to the defined roles of management, crane owner, crane user, site supervisor, and lift director.

Continuing Improvement

The B30 standards are developed and maintained by industry expert volunteers. Instead of a government mandate and funding, the ASME B30 Safety Standard for Cableways, Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Hooks, Jacks, and Slings Committee that maintains these volumes operates under well-defined and transparent operating procedures accredited by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI accreditation signifies that the procedures used by standards developing organizations meet the Institute's requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process.

All standards are developed in an environment that is accessible and responsive to the all stakeholders—including the public—who are provided an opportunity to submit requests for revision and comment on proposed revisions to volumes prior to publication.


Within the committee framework managed by ASME, the B30 standards committee is always looking to incorporate the industry's latest technological advances and best practices.

For example, in 2012 a new volume, B30.29 Self-Erecting Tower Cranes, was issued on the basis of industry advocacy that those machines, commonly used in skyscraper construction, did not easily fit into the operational criteria of either a mobile or tower crane. Another recent addition, the B30.28 Balance Lifting Units, was requested by industry to cover devices used in factories or warehouses to help position and maneuver heavy items.

While the basic principles of ancient machines are still applicable in many modern lifting devices, advances in materials and technology have allowed for cranes to be adapted to aid in accomplishing difficult and unusual tasks. The lifting capacity of the largest cranes has grown to more than 2,500 tons—the equivalent of lifting 1,000 cars. Behind the scenes cranes are at work in harbors and factories around the world moving the consumables and products that we rely on for our day-to-day food, energy and shelter needs. Some cranes are even used to erect other cranes which then go on to build the skyscrapers that dot our skyline.

I became involved with the B30 committee to stay at the leading edge of safety requirements for the crane and rigging industry. I also wanted to extend my network of colleagues and experts in the industry.

— David Moore Unified Engineering

Even with all these changes, ensuring safety is just as important today as it was in 1916, when the ASME Committee on the Protection of Industrial Workers first presented its proposed code. Thanks to the hundreds of dedicated volunteers donating their time and expertise to the continual improvement of the B30 volumes, ASME is leading the way in helping to ensure cranes can be a common and essential part of the everyday landscape.

The 28 Volumes of the ASME B30 Safety Standard

1943 - B30.1 Jacks, industrial rollers, air casters, and hydraulic gantries

1943 - B30.2 Overhead and gantry cranes (top running bridge, single or multiple girder, top running trolley hoist)

1975 - B30.3 Tower cranes

1973 - B30.4 Portal and pedestal cranes


1968 - B30.5 Mobile and locomotive cranes

1969 - B30.6 Derricks

1971 - B30.7 Winches

1971 - B30.8 Floating cranes and floating derricks

1971 - B30.9 Slings

1975 - B30.10 Hooks

1973 -B30.11 Monorails and underhung cranes

1975 - B30.12 Handling loads suspended from rotorcraft


1977 - B30.13 Storage/retrieval (S/R) machines and associated equipment

1979 - B30.14 Side boom tractors

1973 - B30.15 Mobile hydraulic cranes (withdrawn 1982)

1973 - B30.16 Overhead hoists (underhung)

1980 - B30.17 Overhead and gantry cranes (top running bridge, single girder, underhung hoist)

1987 - B30.18 Stacker cranes (top or under running bridge, multiple girder with top or under running trolley hoist)


1986 - B30.19 Cableways

1985 - B30.20 Below-the-hook lifting devices

1989 - B30.21 Lever hoists

1987 - B30.22 Articulating boom cranes

1998 - B30.23 Personnel lifting systems

2008 - B30.24 Container cranes

1998 - B30.25 Scrap and material handlers

2004 - B30.26 Rigging hardware

2005 - B30.27 Material placement systems

2010 - B30.28 Balance lifting units

2013 - B30.29 Self-erecting tower cranes

B30.30 Ropes (under development)