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Three Tips For Lifting Heavy Loads Safely

We’ve all used them to lift things — front end loaders, skid steers, forklifts, engine cranes, chain hoists and all those nice heavy lifting tools. But are we always being safe when we use them?

Around our shop and farm we’ve been pretty lucky so far. We have all of the above items to help us lift, and we’ve only had a couple of unexpected drops. Here’s the story of heavy things falling and a few hints on how to avoid some of those fast dropping, heavy surprises.


See Photo 1. This is a fork off our old forklift. Now, when I say old I mean it’s not really old because its three years younger than I am. But if it was a car it would have long been considered an antique. It’s an old Bluchip forklift which I am told was made of old army truck parts back in the middle of the last century. Its lift weight is supposedly 10,000 pounds and it might still lift that on a good day. It’s quite heavy built and hadn’t let us down in the lift department until the other day.

Dan was lifting a car around and the fork just broke. No warning. It just snapped. And where was the car that was up in the air? You guessed it — on the ground in the blink of an eye.

This is why you never get under a raised lifting implement without having it securely blocked up. If it’s up in the air something can break, whether it be a fork, a hydraulic hose, the chain holding it up or some other vital part of the lifting apparatus. Or perhaps it’s operator error. Who among us has not at one time pulled the wrong lever or moved the right lever the wrong way?

Take a look at Photo 2. You can see by the tape measure this is no light weight piece of iron. It’s six-inches wide and two-inches thick. Take a look at the break. It’s all fresh. No amount of inspection would have told us that it was in danger of breaking.


Now think about this. If the above mentioned car (or piece of equipment or whatever) is six-feet up in the air and one fork breaks, how far will that item travel if it hits the ground and does a summersault? That’s why you stay well away from anything that’s raised up very high. Any raised load 15 feet long could easily flip out or slide 10 or 15 feet to the side of the lifting device. Stay well clear of the sides of a lifted load. Make sure you areneverunder a lifted load that is not securely blocked.

As for our forklift we ordered two new forks for it. I was going to cheap out and only order one but Dan figured that if one broke unexpectedly then perhaps the other one is due to break any day. He’s a pretty smart guy.


Now the second big bang we had was when we were lifting the feeder house of one of our 750 Massey combines. If any of you have had the pleasure of changing the concave in one of these machines you know you have to take off the feeder house. Not a bad job if you say it quick until you realize the feeder house weighs somewhere around 700 pounds or more.

I had bought a handy dandy homemade engine crane at an auction sale a few years back. It had a really good jack although the casters were a bit wobbly. Made of nice heavy pipe it would lift things as needed. Ben and I were busily lifting a feeder house with it when all of a sudden it dropped. The whole assembly toppled to the floor in a huge bang. Luckily Ben and I jumped the right way. The “heavy pipe” on the engine crane that held up the feeder house had bent like a wet noodle. The engine crane now resides in the scrap pile. To finish the job we borrowed the large factory built engine crane we had at our shop in town.

Make sure that all the lifting equipment you use is designed for the job you’re doing and is not overloaded. Is your equipment strong enough for the task? Make sure all the chains and lifting attachments are in good shape and properly secured. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Don’t trust your fingers, limbs or life on any piece of equipment. Hydraulic hoses break unexpectedly. Bolts break. Chains and cables can break or slip off their attaching points.

Spend a few dollars and buy some good chains, proper clevises, good quality bolts and anything else to make your lifting safe. That chain you’re using to lift things — where did you get it? How good is it? When did you last inspect it for worn, cracked or stretched links? Don’t trust your life to worn out equipment when for a few bucks you can have good safe equipment.

While you’re operating equipment make sure that helpers stand well clear off the lifted load and its fall area. Too many times people are careless when lifting is done. Remember that as the operator you are responsible for the lifting operation. If your helpers don’t want to stay safely clear refuse to continue the work. As the equipment operator you are likely liable for any injuries if there is an accident. Upsetting your co-workers by being safe is better than visiting them in the hospital or going to their funeral.

Safety is taken for granted too often. Make sure you and your equipment operators are being safe. If you want to delve further into the subject there’s lots of information out there on lifting safety. Remember it’s your job to make sure things are done safely.

Be careful out there.

RonSettlerfarmswithhiswifeandsonsat LuckyLake,Sask.

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