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Updated Guidance on Lifting Operations With Excavators

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The Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group is pleased to announce the release of their latest project on plant safety – Lifting Operations With Excavators. The plant safety group took into account the prolific use of excavators used for lifting operations in the construction and allied sectors and agreed to update their original guidance publication which was devised back in 2008.


The revised guidance thoroughly sets out the precautions and procedures that should be taken into account when planning and carrying out lifting operations with 360-degree tracked and wheeled excavators as well as 180-degree excavators/backhoe loaders. The precautions and procedures specified in the publication should enable the work to be done safely and in accordance with the law. To relay the level of additions that have been added to the original content, the guidance has increased from some seven pages to 72 pages.


A core message that the Plant Safety Group wish to convey within their guidance is that in terms of the selection of lifting equipment, excavators are primarily designed for excavating and handling loose material rather than lifting suspended loads. Therefore, they advocate that an excavator should not be the first or only choice for lifting, even if it is already on site, is quicker and maybe more cost-effective than using another, more appropriate, piece of lifting equipment that has specifically designed for lifting operations such as cranes, telehandlers etc.


The guidance details that the use of excavators further introduces a number of additional risks when carrying out lifting operations which are not present with conventional cranes, such as:

  • Fast articulation and slew movements of the hydraulic services;
  • The need to operate the boom and dipper arm simultaneously to keep the load vertical when lifting or placing loads;
  • Standard excavator rated capacity warning devices generally only warn, do not prevent the handling of loads in excess of the rated capacity and can be muted by the machine operator;
  • That rated capacity varies if lifting over the front and rear or side-on to the machine and if features such as blades, stabilisers and axle locks are engaged or not;
  • That some appointed persons need may not have the experience of planning and supervising lifting operations with excavators.


Topics covered within the guidance include planning and supervision requirements, machine selection, roles and responsibilities, specific issues and maintenance and inspections. A key part of the guidance is a flowchart that introduces a hierarchy and sequence to the planning process and includes machine selection, roles and responsibilities, required competencies and monitoring frequencies of the operation.  The section on specific issues includes information on the factors that affect topics such as stability, ground conditions, specific issues when using 180⁰ excavators, the use of fork attachments and the effects of tilt-rotators during lifting operations.


And finally, a number of case studies have been incorporated within an annex which identifies how the changing environmental and load complexity that determines the classification of a lifting activity as a basic, intermediate or complex operation.


The Good Practice Guide for Lifting Operations With Excavators can be downloaded from 




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