Thursday, 22 April 2010

Let the crane take the strain

I have mentioned before that the area of driving that I do involves a crane. This is a lorry-mounted crane for unloading the stuff that is on the lorry only. The crane itself is known as a HIAB but HIAB is a word like Hoover or Sellotape where a brand has come to refer to the object as a whole. I am not sure I have ever actually used a HIAB but have definitely used lots of Atlas and Palfinger cranes.

When you know a crane well it is like an extension of your own arm - you don't have to think to operate it and you can achieve amazing dexterity with it. When you don't know a crane, it is like your arm when you have slept on it for several hours - you think you ought to be able to operate it but it doesn't seem to work properly and because you think you ought to be able to operate it, you feel particularly silly when you smack yourself in the face with it.

Obviously smacking yourself in the face with your own arm is unpleasant and quite a rude awakening but smacking yourself in the face with a 2 tonne crane would be lethal and is evidently something I have never done but I have come pretty close. What is actually more likely to happen is smacking someone else in the face because they have got too close to the product you are trying to move and then you have moved the lever in the wrong direction. Luckily this has also never happened otherwise I would probably be writing this from a cell in the nearest prison, but I have had to warn builders that it might happen and to stand well back. "It's alright, love, I trust you" one said to me. "Well I wouldn't stand that close and I'm the one operating the controls" was my reply. He moved.

I am now doing agency work so I am driving a different truck with a different crane every few days. I am having to deconstruct what I do when I operate a crane and learn how to do it all over again. There is always the same combination of actions and corresponding levers - slew left and right, main beam up and down, secondary beam up and down, extension in and out, grab rotate left and right, grab open and shut - but they are sometimes back to front and the levers operate the other way up. It is like learning to operate my arm again. It is sometimes frustrating but it has also reinvigorated my enjoyment of the job, which is lovely.

The sunshine helps.

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