Bright Idea #5 : Crane Mirror

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COHP, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Summary Statement

Describes a portable mirror that can be placed on the dash of a crane provide a good view without placing your neck in uncomfortable conditions. Part of a collection. Click on the 'collection' button to access the other items.

Using this Bright Idea . . .

"Construction may vary but the principle's the same in any job," Bradley said.

He uses mirrors elsewhere on the crane to see the cable drum, to watch things on the side of the crane and to see what's going on around him.

Sometimes mirrors come with the crane, while others are put on in the company shop.

Mirrors are more common these days, agree other operators. Some are even heated, said Billy Cronin, the oiler who often works with Bradley.

The Problem: staring up all day, in one position

It's a pain in the neck, literally.

The ergonomic problem – static posture – is caused by having to watch the boom, the load and/or the signal person. When these are all overhead, crane operators end up spending lots of time in one position: with their necks bent back, heads facing up.

"I have to sit there for long periods, concentrating on men and pieces of machinery that are above me," says Hugh "Butch" Bradley, a long-time member of Local 4 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

"It's true," adds John Pini, another veteran operator. "On crawler towers, and truck crane tower attachments, you're always looking up.

The results are unhealthy. They include headaches, sore necks, pinched nerves and sore muscles.

The process: "keep it simple"

"The idea was simple," Bradley says.

His Mentor, Lester Cash, was a "sacrifice to the mirror god." Cash used mirrors to avoid uncomfortable positions in his crane work back in the late 1960s when Bradley started in the industry. "So, it's how I was taught" he said. "If you have to watch something that's out of your normal line of vision, can you rig a mirror to see it?"

"Mirrors are cheap, portable ones can be moved without a hassle and they really make things easier," Bradley said.

The solution: mirror, mirror on the dash

Bradley knew what he wanted – a mirror for the dashboard.

A "west coast mirror" fit the bill. Mounted flat, the 6.5 by 16-inch mirror sits in a short (6-inch-high) stand. It can be tilted easily but stays in place too. It took 15 minutes to make the stand in his shop at home.

 "I like this one because it's portable, and simple's best," Bradley said. He can take it off the dash if the work is down low.

The operating engineer uses the mirror whenever he's lowering a boom. "I just keep tapping it" to get it in the right position, he said.

Sitting in his seat, Bradley sets the mirror up at the tightest angle to see the load reflected in it. (See picture at left.) When the load gets out of sight (for example, over a building), he can readjust the mirror to see the rotation of the cable drum.

With another tap he can see the signal person, if they are hand signaling.

"What I zero in on depends on the situation," Bradley said. "If the signal person's on the edge of the building and using hand signals, I zero in on him.

Bradley's used the mirror since 1966. "It's commonplace to me to use it. There's no way I'm staring up all day.

People ask if the image isn't backwards. "It's not. The mirror's tilted at the person, not you. So I see what's on the right on the right and what's on the left on the left.