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Tue May 11 2021

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New guidance for lifting with excavators

21 Nov 17 They used to say just don’t do it – excavators are for digging, cranes are for lifting – but everyone ignored them. So official industry advice has yielded to the inevitable: excavators can be used for lifting and here's how.

The new guidance runs to 72 pages
The new guidance runs to 72 pages

Lifting with excavators requires as much planning as lifting with cranes, new industry guidance stresses.

The Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group has published a new safety guide called Lifting operations with 180o and 360o excavators.

Acknowledging the widespread use of excavators for lifting operations in construction and allied sectors, the Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group has revised, expanded and updated the group’s original guidance publication which was first introduced in 2008. Additions to the original document are so substantial that the guidance has increased from seven pages to 72 pages.

It sets out the precautions and procedures that should be taken when planning and carrying out lifting operations with excavators and backhoe loaders.

The old advice that excavators are not designed for lifting suspended loads remains, but the experts acknowledge that sometimes a digger is the only machine on site and needs must..

The guidance sets out the risks of lifting with excavators, including:

•          Fast articulation and slew movements of the hydraulic services;

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•          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. They can also 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 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 setting out a hierarchy and sequence to the planning process.

Construction Plant-hire Association director Kevin Minton, who is chairman of the Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group, said: “As lifting using excavators has become much more prolific and in many cases excavators are only lifting equipment on site, it was time for us to update and expand the guidance, highlighting and emphasising that lifting suspended loads with excavators is no different to the management and execution of the lifting of loads using a traditional crane. The increased guidance means that lift planners now need to think carefully about just using an excavator for the lifting operations on their site even though it may be convenient.”

The guide can be downloaded for free from

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