Safe lifting by machine

UKCA marking or CE marking for new machines

New machines must be UKCA marked or CE marked and supplied with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English.

From 1 January 2025, new machinery that is only CE marked will no longer be acceptable in Great Britain. You can find more information on this change from the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

If you are an employer or a self-employed person providing lifting equipment for use at work, or if you have control of the use of lifting equipment, you must make sure it is safe.

The law

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) aim to ensure that work equipment is safe to use, regardless of its age, condition or origin.

PUWER places duties on employers and others who control how work equipment is used. This includes those who hire it out to be used by others.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) apply to safe lifting equipment.

Factors you should consider

Think about what risks there may be and how they can be managed, for example:

  • damage or deterioration of the equipment caused by wet, abrasive or corrosive environments
  • trying to move weights that are too heavy and exceed the load limit of the machine
  • equipment failure
  • untrained workers planning the lift or using the equipment
  • people being struck by moving parts of the machinery or by things falling

Safe lifting needs to be properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised and carried out safely.

Any equipment you use must have been properly designed, manufactured and tested. Don't forget to maintain it properly too.

Here are some questions you should ask.

  • What are you lifting?
  • How heavy is it?
  • Where is its centre of gravity?
  • How will you attach it to the lifting machinery?
  • Who is in control of the lift?
  • What are the safe limits of the equipment?
  • Could you rehearse the lift if necessary?

Dos and don'ts of lifting machinery safely

To operate lifting machinery safely:

  • use only certified lifting equipment, marked with its safe working load, which is not overdue for examination
  • keep the reports of thorough examination as well as any declarations of conformity or test certificates
  • make sure the load is properly attached to the lifting equipment. If necessary, securely bind the load to prevent it slipping or falling off
  • before lifting an unbalanced load, find out its centre of gravity. Raise it a few inches off the ground and pause – there should be little harm if it drops
  • use packaging to prevent sharp edges of the load from damaging slings and do not allow tackle to be damaged by being dropped, dragged from under loads or subjected to sudden loads
  • when using jib cranes, make sure any indicators for safe loads are working properly and set correctly for the job and the way the machine is configured
  • use outriggers where necessary
  • when using multi-slings make sure the sling angle is taken into account
  • have a responsible slinger or banksman and use a recognised signalling system

To prevent injuries when lifting machinery:

  • don’t use unsuitable equipment, eg makeshift, damaged, badly worn chains shortened with knots, kinked or twisted wire ropes, frayed or rotted fibre ropes
  • don’t exceed the safe working load of machinery or accessories like chains, slings and grabs. Remember that the load in the legs of a sling increases as the angle between the legs increases
  • never lift a load if you doubt its weight or the adequacy of the equipment

Lifting equipment covered by LOLER

The range of lifting equipment covered by LOLER is very wide and the Regulations can apply across all industry sectors.LOLER will apply if lifting equipment is used by workers or relevant self-employed people at work. If you are self-employed you can check if health and safety applies to you.

There are three key terms used in the Regulations: 'lifting equipment', 'lifting operations' and 'the load'.

Lifting equipment

Lifting equipment is any work equipment for lifting and lowering loads, and includes any accessories used in doing so (such as attachments to support, fix or anchor the equipment).

Examples of lifting equipment include:

  • overhead cranes and their supporting runways
  • patient hoists
  • motor vehicle lifts
  • vehicle tail lifts and cranes fitted to vehicles
  • a building cleaning cradle and its suspension equipment
  • goods and passenger lifts
  • telehandlers and fork lifts
  • lifting accessories

Lifting accessories are pieces of equipment that are used to attach the load to lifting equipment, providing a link between the two.

Any lifting accessories used between lifting equipment and the load may need to be taken into account in determining the overall weight of the load.

Examples of lifting accessories include:

  • fibre or rope slings
  • chains (single or multiple leg)
  • hooks
  • eyebolts
  • spreader beams
  • magnetic and vacuum devices

Further details and examples of equipment covered by LOLER can be found in the Approved Code of Practice and guidance.

Lifting operations

This is a term defined by LOLER regulation 8(2): 'In this regulation "lifting operation" means an operation concerned with the lifting or lowering of a load.'

The load

The load includes any material, people or animals (or any combination of these) that is lifted by the lifting equipment. Loads are often provided with permanent or semi-permanent fixed or attached points for lifting. In most cases, these are considered to be part of the load.

Examples of loads include:

  • loose bulk materials
  • sacks, bags, pallets and stillages
  • discrete items (such as a large concrete block)
  • machinery and any permanently attached lifting eyes
  • a skip and the lugs fixed to its side

Equipment not covered by LOLER

LOLER is wide in its scope and some equipment might appear to be 'lifting' and therefore thought to be covered by LOLER. There are some notable exceptions that are not covered by LOLER, including:

  • pallet trucks, where the consequence of the load falling off is very low
  • roller shutter doors
  • escalators
  • fall arrest ropes
  • tipper trucks
  • dentist chairs

However, where this equipment is used at work, it will need to be maintained for safety and may (in some cases) be subject to inspection under PUWER.

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Updated: 2023-03-27