Lifting Machinery and Equipment Safety: Strength and Stability
Employers should consider whether the equipment has adequate strength for the proposed use, taking into account the combination of forces to which the lifting equipment will be subjected, as well as the weight of any associated accessories. Employers must also consider the stability of the equipment for the proposed use.
Lifting equipment that is mobile, (e.g. hydraulic jacks for vehicles, fork lift trucks and mechanical excavators and equipment which is dismantled and reassembled at different locations) should be stable during use under all foreseeable conditions. Account should be taken of the nature of the ground and other surfaces on which the equipment might be used.
Under Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), employers have a duty to assess the suitability of the equipment for its intended use as follows.
- Select the most suitable lifting equipment for the task by considering all the hazards and associated risks
- Ensure that the lifting equipment is inspected regularly; daily operator checks, weekly inspection and statutory six-monthly “thorough examinations”
- Ensure that the lifting equipment is regularly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and a maintenance log kept of the work carried out
- After a hydraulic levelling system hose failure, establish whether the carrier tilt will lock when it is brought back to ground level. If it does, people are at risk of being tipped out.
Safe Working Load
The safe working load (SWL) can be stamped into the equipment or form part of a plate or chart. Information must also be provided on any configurations or combinations where the SWL may differ. Where it is not possible to mark SWL, e.g. on small items, a colour coding or labelling system should be used to clearly indicate SWL.
Equipment that could be used for lifting people, but which has not been designed for this purpose, must be clearly marked “do not use for lifting people”.
Equipment designed for lifting people should have the maximum number of people (and the SWL) appropriately and clearly marked on it. These factors are jointly important, particularly as the population is getting heavier. It is also important to compare these figures and consider whether any additional load is being carried (heavy tools or plant), as although a maximum number of people may not be exceeded, the total load could be in excess of the SWL.
Wherever possible, the general public should be prohibited from entering areas around lifting operations and traffic should be controlled or prohibited during lifting. It is also beneficial to ensure that areas where lifting operations are being performed are clean and free from debris to avoid slips, trips and falls.
The site needs to be as safe as is reasonably practicable for any work operation.
There is a general duty for employers to give workers adequate training and information set out in the LOLER, but specific training and information should be given on:
- Procedures for loading and unloading the lifting equipment on delivery and removal
- Safe operation and use of the particular type of lifting equipment being used
- The daily safety checks required
- How to report and record any defect or malfunction
- The correct use of fall protection equipment
- Any task-specific tools and equipment being used, e.g. chainsaws, pressure washers, etc.
Stability of the Load
It is important that the load is under control during all parts of the lift or descent of the load.
Considerations here are:
- That clutches or ratchet mechanisms are adequately rated and properly maintained to ensure that they can at all times control the load
- That if the lift is powered, adequate safety precautions to ensure that the load does not drop are in place if the power fails.
Typical precautions would be:
- Brakes that automatically operate if the power fails
- Equipment such as check valves in hydraulic systems.
Consideration must be given to how the lifting equipment is attached to the load. It is common for heavy objects to come equipped with lifting points, which will require examination.
- The object may contain sockets for eye bolts. It is important that an adequate size of eye bolt is fitted, that an eye bolt with the correct thread is fitted and that the thread in both the eye bolt and the socket is undamaged
- Lugs are often welded to objects for lifting purposes, the adequacy of the lug and its welding should be examined. The welding should be intact and the lug should show no evidence of damage.
Unless specifically designed for lifting the load, the use of brackets or holes should be avoided as their strength and capacity for carrying the load will be unknown. Particular care is needed to examine the strength of the point on the object being lifted which will take the load, for example, where a sling touches.
Objects should never be lifted by the banding or strapping that is used to hold packaging around an object unless it is specifically designed for lifting.
The stability of the load must be examined, e.g. if the load tilts, it should be examined to see whether any part of the load will fall. If the analysis shows that it may, then the loose items should be secured or lifted separately.
Care should be taken that the load cannot fall unintentionally from the lifting equipment.
- Hooks will be needed to be equipped with safety catches so that the chains or slings cannot move off the hook under any circumstances
- Care will have to be taken with slinging awkward loads to ensure that the slings cannot slide during the lift and release the load
- If lifting such loads as palletised objects and the pallet is an integral part of the lift, then it is essential that the pallet is of adequate strength for the load under the particular lifting conditions. Again the stability of the pallet and the slinging will need to be examined.
Working under Suspended Loads
People should never normally work under suspended loads. Loads should never normally be carried over people.
Where this is impossible to avoid, eg where equipment is lifted to examine the underside of it, then extra precautions should be taken to ensure the safety of personnel.
- Everybody, other than the workers essential for the task, should be excluded from under the suspended load.
- A safe system of working should be introduced for those working under the load.
- The lifting equipment should be thoroughly examined prior to its use to ensure that it is safe to use.
- The lifting equipment should be de-rated to ensure that a larger safety factor is in existence than would normally be in use when the lift was not above personnel.
- Additional safeguards such as a secondary means of holding the load should be considered.
- Additional protection for the workers under the load should be considered in case the load disintegrates or falls, e.g. cages or frames which might deflect or support the load before it could crush those beneath it.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Wherever personnel need to be on any lifting equipment that exposes them to the risk of a fall, steps should be taken to minimise the risk.
- The working area should be adequate and, if personnel could fall and sustain a serious injury, the working area should be fenced
- Any opening in the floor area should be fenced or covered
- The surface of the floor should be slip resistant, and be free of dust or liquids that could cause personnel to slip.
Consider if the work area will need to be fenced to prevent death or serious injury from an accidental drop.
Guarding Lifting Equipment
Where it is possible to do so (e.g. where regular lifting operations are undertaken) barriers or guards should be fitted to exclude people from the hazardous area.
This exclusion from the hazardous area is particularly important where automated lifting equipment such as that used for automated warehousing is in use.
Edge protection should be used around any elevated platform of lift equipment to reduce the risk of items such as maintenance tools from falling and injuring personnel below.