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Weathering heights: Crane operator makes the climb for hospital expansion

image_0.img.320.highMeet  A.J. Barker, second-generation crane operator extraordinaire, who's currently working on the new Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford from 16 stories in the air.

In a Stanford Medicine News article, Barker described his workday:

“You have to pay attention at all times,” he said. “There’s no room for error when you are flying iron and sending a load weighing thousands of pounds over to guys who are standing five stories high on beams that are 8 inches wide.”

After climbing up to the cabin, Barker starts each shift with a safety inspection of the equipment on the counter-jib behind the cabin, eyeballing the hoist cable for signs of stress, lubricating the moving parts, and checking the tension on the tower section’s bolts and lattice. He’ll go over the plans with the signalmen for safety and efficiency, and discuss options for flying the loads. The crane operates in all weather, except in very high wind or lightning storms.

Then he stays there for eight to nine hours, "flying iron" at the directions of folks on the ground. Barker, 36, learned from his dad, mastering the basics by the time he was 10. It's a blend of physics, communication and a lack of fear of heights. "I have the coolest office view, and it changes all the time," Barker said.

He's proud to work on the Packard expansion, to construct a building designed to help children and families.

I never knew a person operated cranes from high in the sky. Now, thanks to Barker, I can chat about jib length and admire skilled gingerbread placement.

Previously: A trip down memory lane: Stories from the early days of the School of Medicine. Image of the Week: Digging in at the Stanford Hospital & Clinics groundbreaking and A new chapter for Stanford Hospital 
Photo by L.A. Cicero

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