Vehicle lifts are commonly found at NARFA member facilities. They are valuable tools that assist technicians in performing repairs safely and efficiently. However, if used improperly, vehicles can fall from the lift and the consequences are too heavy to take lightly. Lack of training, operator error, rushing the operation, and neglected maintenance are among the things that may result in lift-related accidents. A vehicle falling from a lift can result in serious bodily injury, property damage, and liability claims.
Vehicle lifts should never be operated without proper safety training, and manufacturer and facility safety guidelines should be followed at all times. Here are some helpful basic vehicle lift safety guidelines to help prevent a dangerous mishap.
Management Work Practices and Responsibilities
Provide all technicians with proper training. American National Safety Institute requires all training to be documented.
Training should include:
- Information on the maximum weight for each lift
- Proper operation of all controls
- Proper vehicle spotting methods
- Lift safety features
- Rules for safe lifting
- Proper housekeeping procedures
Some sources for training are:
- The manual supplied by the manufacturer
- A representative of the company that installed the equipment
- The Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) provides a variety of safety materials, including training videos and safety inspection checklists.
Documentation & Labels
Ensure all necessary safety labels and instruction postings are in place. Inspect labels at least monthly to determine they are not missing or worn making them unreadable. For a frame-engaging lift, a copy of the ALI/LP “Lifting Points-Quick Reference Guide” should be kept nearby
Technicians Work Practices and Responsibilities
The technician, once trained, has a variety of responsibilities when operating vehicle lift equipment. The following is a list of safe work practices:
- Maintain a constant awareness of the many hazards involved with lifting vehicles.
- Be aware of activities in the lift area during operation.
- Never allow unqualified persons to enter the area.
- Wear the proper personal protective equipment. Safety glasses need to be worn when doing overhead work. In some cases safety goggles, face shields, and bump caps may be required.
- Never exceed the maximum weight of the lift.
- Always use the proper designated vehicle lift points.
- Check the lifting points and adapters for damage or corrosion, and for wet, oily, or slick surfaces that may cause slippage.
- Ensure the vehicle is properly centered and balanced. Position the vehicle so its center of gravity lies well within the area bounded by the supporting points of contact between the lift and vehicle. Remove any item in the vehicle that could affect the normal center of gravity.
- Raise the lift a short distance and gently rock the vehicle to verify it is sufficiently stabilized before fully raising the vehicle to working position. For long-wheelbase or short-wheelbase vehicles, it is good practice to position high reach vehicle support stands under the vehicle.
- Ensure the lift locking devices (latches) are properly engaged.
- Use high reach vehicle support stands to assist in stabilizing the vehicle if heavy parts are to be added or removed. Never lower a vehicle onto the vehicle support stand.
- Never try to stabilize a falling vehicle — get out of the way!
- Make sure the wheels are properly chocked on drive-on lifts. Only use equipment provided by the manufacturer.
- Make sure the area is clear of people, tools, and equipment when lowering a vehicle.
- Never try to alter or repair a lift. Immediately report any problems to your supervisor. Only trained professionals are qualified and authorized to repair or modify the equipment.
- Never use the lift as a jack or for any other unauthorized purposes.
Lift Certification and Maintenance
Proper maintenance of this critical equipment not only can prevent accidents but can also reduce the potential for inefficiency. Failed equipment reduces the number of vehicle repairs that can be accomplished in a timely manner. The following should be considered:
- New lifts should be ALI/ETL certified.
- Manufacturer’s guidelines for inspection and scheduled maintenance procedures should be followed.
- Technicians should be trained to inspect the lift daily for cracks, damage or wear. These inspections should include, but are not limited to: cables, sheaves, lift pads, adapters, lift arms, and welds. On surface-mounted lifts, inspect anchor bolts and concrete floor around the mounting bolts for cracks.
- If defects are noted during the inspection, the technician should stop using the equipment and notify the supervisor.
- Qualified contractors should be used to make all repairs.
- The repair contractor should have a written lockout/tagout procedure to ensure that the lift is not used or energized during the repair.
This article touches on many important vehicle lift safety concerns, however, it is not intended to cover all aspects that may need to be followed to safely operate an individual vehicle lift. Refer to manufacturer’s guidelines for specific recommendations, and refer to ALI publications for general guidance.