Lifting operations

What you need to do

The law says that all lifting operations involving lifting equipment must be properly planned by a competent person; appropriately supervised; and carried out in a safe manner.

Cranes and lifting accessories such as slings must be of adequate strength, tested and subject to the required examinations and inspections.

All crane operators, and people involved in slinging loads and directing lifting operations, must be trained and competent.

What you need to know

Lifting operations include the use of:


There are four key aspects to the safe use of cranes:

Tower and mobile cranes are used extensively on construction projects and present two principal hazards:

  • Collapse of the crane – such incidents present significant potential for multiple fatal injuries, both on and off-site;
  • Falling of the load – these events also present a significant potential for death and major injury.

Other incidents have involved people being struck by moving loads, cranes contacting overhead conductors and cranes colliding with each other.

Important note for crane users: The legal responsibilities for safe lifting operations are usually shared between the crane hirer and crane user.

When a crane is hired the responsibility for planning, supervising and carrying out lifting operations rests with the user unless these responsibilities are explicitly assumed by the crane hire company under a 'contract lift'.

People who hire cranes but do not have the necessary competencies for safe planning and use will need to opt for a 'Contract Lift' from the crane hire company.    

Planning lifting operations

All lifting operations should be planned so they are carried out safely with foreseeable risks taken into account.

The person appointed to plan the lifting operation should have adequate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the lifts being undertaken.

The plan will need to address the risks identified by a risk assessment, the resources required, procedures and the responsibilities so that any lifting operation is carried out safely.

The plan should ensure that the lifting equipment remains safe for the range of lifting operations for which the equipment might be used.

British Standard BS 7121Part 1 2006 sets out an acceptable standard for managing lifting operations using cranes on construction projects.

Safe systems of work

You must plan lifting operations carefully to ensure they are carried out safely. Your plan should result in a safe system of work and this information should be recorded. This record is sometimes known as a method statement and you must ensure that everyone involved understands it.

Key elements include:

  • planning – including site preparation, crane erection and dismantling;
  • selection, provision and use of a suitable crane and work equipment
  • including safe slinging and signalling arrangements;
  • maintenance and examination of the crane and equipment;
  • provision of properly trained and competent personnel;
  • supervision of operations by personnel having the necessary authority;
  • thorough examinations, reports and other documents;
  • preventing unauthorised movement or use of the crane; and
  • measures to secure safety of persons not involved in the lifting.    

Supervision of lifting

The right level of supervision must be in place for lifting operations, reflecting the degree of risk and personnel involved in the particular lifting operation.

The crane supervisor should direct and supervise the lifting operation to make sure it is carried out in accordance with the method statement.

The crane supervisor should be competent and suitably trained and should have sufficient experience to carry out all relevant duties and authority to stop the lifting operation if it is judged dangerous to proceed.

Thorough examination

There are strict legal requirements concerning the thorough examination of all cranes:

Lifting equipment must be thoroughly examined at the prescribed intervals.  This is a detailed and specialised examination by a competent person.

The examination will usually be arranged by the crane hire company, although it is the responsibility of the crane user to ensure that all necessary examinations are carried out and that the required reports are in order. 

Records of thorough examinations and tests must be: readily available to enforcing authorities; secure; and capable of being reproduced in written form.

Gin wheels

Gin wheels provide a convenient way of raising tools and light loads manually.  Though simple pieces of equipment, care is needed when installing and using them if accidents are to be avoided.  If a gin wheel or similar is to be used, make sure it has:

  • been securely fixed to secure anchorage points, to prevent displacement;
  • a proper hook designed to prevent load displacement, or a hook fitted with a safety catch. The safety catch will help retain the load in case it snags. Do not use bent reinforcing rods or other makeshift hooks;
  • a safe working platform from which the hook can be loaded and unloaded; and
  • been clearly marked with the safe working load.


Hoists of various types are widely used on construction sites and include goods and passenger hoists, inclined hoists and transport platforms.  They have become an essential part of almost any construction project providing the facility for the smooth and rapid movement of workers and materials.

Hoists must be:

  • properly constructed of sound materials, stable and capable of lifting the required loads;
  • properly marked as to use, either for equipment and materials only, or for passengers in addition to goods, and the number that can be carried, together with a safe working load notice. Never allow passengers to ride on a goods only hoist;
  • erected only by trained and experienced people following the manufacturer's instructions and properly secured to the supporting structure;
  • operated only by trained and competent people;
  • thoroughly examined and tested after erection, substantial alteration or repair and at relevant intervals. Regular safety checks should be carried out and the results recorded. As a general guide, daily pre-use checks should be carried out by the operator, with additional formal inspections carried out at least monthly or in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions where timescales are shorter. 

Set the controls up:

  • so that goods hoists can be operated from one position only, e.g. ground level and the operator can see all the landing levels from the operating position; and
  • so that passenger hoists with controls on the platform can only be operated from the platform, other than in emergencies.

To prevent people being struck by the platform or other moving parts:

  • enclose the hoistway at places where people might be struck, e.g. ground level, working platforms or window openings; and
  • provide gates at all landings and at ground level.

Prevent people falling down the hoistway by making sure:

  • the hoistway is fenced where people could fall down it;
  • the gates at landings are kept closed except during loading and unloading.  Gates should be secure and not free to swing into the hoistway; and
  • the standoff distance from the platform edge to the landing is appropriate and the platform is fitted with a ramp so there is no gap to fall through.

Prevent people being hit by falling materials e.g. by:

  • enclosing the hoistway;
  • ensuring travel platforms have toe-boards and are enclosed with mesh or solid sides where loads exceed toe-board height;
  • transporting loose materials in containers such as wheelbarrows or stillages;
  • ensuring all containers are secured to prevent inadvertent movements; and
  • ensuring loads are distributed evenly on the platform and do not impose any point loading in excess of the manufacturer's instructions.

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