Planning & Organising Lifting Operations

As with any workplace activity, tasks which involve using lifting equipment should be planned by a competent and fully trained individual in advance.

The plan should identify and assess any risks, list the resources required and clearly note which employees are responsible for which tasks and who will be supervising. Lifting operations can cause serious injury and incur huge costs if they go wrong.

If an operation is routine and common, such as using a forklift truck, then it still requires an adequate plan, however, there is scope to work from a basic plan template and simply make additions as required. These basic plans should be reviewed at least twice a year.

For more complicated lifting tasks, a new plan should be written each time it is carried out.

When creating a plan, you need to consider:

  • the strength and stability of the equipment
  • the weight and size of what is being lifted
  • the safety of those working under suspended loads
  • visibility
  • attaching, detaching and securing loads
  • where and when the load is going
  • how to avoid overload
  • pre-use checking
  • continuing maintenance of the equipment

Plans should also include details of what should be done in unusual circumstances, for example, if bad weather hits, so that workers are prepared for all eventualities.

Always follow the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), which is the approved code of practice for all lifting tasks.

Analysing the Lifting Equipment

When considering which lifting equipment to use, and if it is suitable for what you're lifting, you need to think of the strength and stability of it.

Lifting equipment must be of adequate strength for what you need to lift. A combination of issues, such as the accessories used, will be a factor in this. You need to think about how reliable the stability will be, to both the load and equipment. Also think of what will be underneath the load; if there are workers, or you've already completed a huge portion of your job, the risks may be higher.

Also think about where the lifting equipment is positioned. Lifting equipment can be fixed or mobile. Both of these can cause individual issues. If fixed, it can cause strains and reach when lifting items which need to be factored in. If mobile, while it can cause less strain, you have to think about the stability and flatness of the ground.

Working Under Suspended Loads

Where it can be avoided, loads should not be lifted over occupied areas. This includes both buildings and where there are workers. When loads are suspended, the below area should be treated as a danger zone and access should be limited.

Supervising Lifts

Everyday lifting tasks, such as using a forklift truck to move packages around a warehouse, do not need to be supervised by a second person if the forklift truck driver is qualified and experienced.

However, supervision may be required in extraordinary circumstances. This includes lifting an unusual or heavy load, or working in a built-up area where there are other workers or members of the public. 

It is a good idea for site managers or employers to occasionally monitor lifting operations to ensure they are still being carried out effectively and there are no corners being cut. This should apply to all trained workers, not just those operating lifting equipment.

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