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Plant Safety Group to Update Guidance on Lifting with Excavators

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Back in 2008 the CPA, together with Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Construction Equipment Association (CEA) and the Construction Confederation, produced a short guide on Lifting Operations in Construction when Using Excavators. Whilst this was revised in 2009, the continued growth in lifting suspended loads with excavators, together with changes in both standards and users expectations, has driven the need for a major revision and expansion of the guidance document.

This task is being carried out under the auspices of the Strategic Forum for Construction, Plant Safety Group, which is funded and administered by the CPA. Under the chairmanship of the CPA’s Kevin Minton, a pan-industry working group has been formed to carry out the drafting of the guidance.

The Working Group includes representatives of the major excavator owners, manufacturers, training organisations, contractors, the CEA and the HSE. Drafting is at a very early stage and the guidance is scheduled for publication in the first half on next year.

Before publication a ‘Draft for Public Comment’ will be circulated to all interested parties, with an invitation to comment on the draft. All comments will be considered by the Working Group before a final draft is prepared, this with the aim of achieving a practical and useful document with pan-industry acceptance. Our past experience of drafting guidance is that covering topics in the required depth results in a substantial document.

Whilst this is a useful reference for managers, is often too detailed for those at the ‘sharp end’ who need information in a clear and succinct form. Recognising this, the Working Group has agreed to provide guidance in a number of briefer formats including ‘key points’ for supervisors and operators, and self-contained ‘toolbox talks’.

The revision will cover:-


  • Lifting with backhoes, 360° excavators, both crawler and wheeled, and front loaders; 
  • Planning and supervision of lifting operations; 
  • Selection of excavators used for lifting; 
  • Planning, supervisory and operating personnel – roles and responsibilities; 
  • Familiarisation; 
  • Specific issues such as: 
  • Hazardous location issues – roads, railways etc; 
  • Using concrete skips on excavators to place concrete; 
  • Lifting of persons; 
  • Use for entertainment purposes; 
  • Use of attachments such as forks. 
  • Maintenance and inspection; 
  • Thorough examination.

The guidance will cover the questions that anyone contemplating lifting suspended loads with excavators should ask themselves. Just because an excavator is already on site it does not mean that it is the most suitable machine for the job. Regulation 4 of the Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires employers to select the machine that is most suitable for a task and which will enable the task to be carried out safely.

When using an excavator to carry out lifting operations it should be borne in mind that excavators are primarily designed for excavating and handling loose material, rather than lifting suspended loads. This introduces several additional risks in carrying out lifting operations that are not present with conventional cranes, risks which will be highlighted in the guidance.

These additional risks do not mean that lifting operations should not be undertaken with excavators, but the task must be effectively planned, following an adequate site and task specific risk assessment and ensuring that all risks are either eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. The aim of the revised and expanded guidance is to provide assistance with this process and remove some of the confusion and myths that surround this topic.

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