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Mechanical Lifting Equipment

By: Norman Thomson - Updated: 17 Mar 2019 | comments*Discuss
Lifting Loads Lift Banksman Slings

Mechanical lifting equipment is used in many different industries. Fork lift trucks, lifting trolleys, mobile and fixed cranes, and all the associated lifting chains and slings are classed as lifting equipment.

Lifting heavy leads by mechanical means is an essential part of construction and engineering work. However, there is also a great risk of failure from such equipment. By taking some simple precautions when using lifting equipment, moving heavy loads around can be achieved safely, without personal injury.

Lifting Equipment

The first thing to consider is the equipment. All equipment used for lifting or moving heavy loads should be properly constructed. For example, equipment carrying a CE mark ensures that is has been constructed to international standards. In addition, equipment that meets these standards will have documented test procedures that should be adhered to before using the equipment. Certain types of lifting equipment, such as cranes, must be inspected by a qualified engineer on a six monthly basis.

Lift Plans

Although the law regarding lifting loads is quite complex, there is one fundamental aspect that is straight forward – lift plans. For operations that use cranes, a formal lift plan must be prepared. Lift plans are a type of risk assessment, whereby the hazards of the operation are carefully considered, the risks are calculated, and suitable control measures are identified and put in place. Before any lift proceeds, the lift plan should be discussed with the crew, often referred to as a Tool Box Talk (TBT). The TBT is an important step in the operation, because it gives everyone concerned with the lift an opportunity to ask questions about their role in the operation.

Moving Heavy Loads

When moving heavy loads around, there are some practical things that should be done to prevent accidents. Firstly, loads should never be moved over people at work. If a load needs to be moved where workers or members of the public are present, the area must have barriers or other means to ensure no one is allowed to walk under the load while it is moving.

Secondly, a banksman should always be used when moving heavy loads by crane. A Banksman is someone who watches the moving load at all times, and who communicates with the crane driver. Often, the driver of the crane is unable to see the load, especially during touch-down, so it is essential that good communication exists between the banksman and the driver.

Tag lines are used to guide the load away from other structures as it moves from the pick-up point to the touch-down area. Tag lines, which are usually attached to the load, are guided by members of the lift crew.

Secondary Lifting Equipment

It is perhaps surprising to note that most accidents involving lifting equipment don’t actually involve the primary item of equipment. For example, because cranes are subject to rigorous inspection regimes, and because they are fitted with numerous safety features, it is very unusual for them to fail. Instead, it is more likely that secondary equipment will cause the accident and injury.

Secondary equipment refers to those items that are attached between the mechanical lifting machine and the load that is being lifted. Chains, slings, lifting strops, shackles and rigging are all examples of secondary lifting equipment. It is all too easy to ignore the importance of such equipment. Before use, it is essential that a visual inspection is carried out of all lifting equipment to ensure there are no signs of wear, abrasions or damage to the slings and shackles. These items should be inspected on a six monthly basis and any damaged equipment withdrawn from service. Colour-coding is a good way of indicating which items of equipment have been inspected.


Of course, training is also very important. All crane drivers, and operators of any lifting device, must have undertaken suitable training in the equipment they are operating. Under no circumstances should anyone who has not received training be allowed to operate mechanical lifting equipment. Banksman training and training for other crew members is also essential.

By taking some simple precautions, lifting equipment that is essential for construction and engineering projects, can be carried out safety, without personal injury to employees or the public and without damage to property.

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