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Three Keys to Material Hoist Safety

Oct 29, 2020

The safe movement of materials on construction sites is critical to completing projects onConstruction site with cranes and scaffolding time and on budget. Moving materials to different areas of a work site safely often requires the use of a material hoist. With so much heavy material being hoisted over great distances, site management must take steps to secure the material and confirm that hoists are working properly to protect workers and the investment in the materials.

ANSI/ASSP A10.5 establishes minimum safety requirements for material hoists. The standard’s scope applies to material hoists used to raise or lower materials during construction, alteration, maintenance or demolition. It is not applicable to the temporary use of permanently installed personnel elevators as material hoists.

If your workers operate material hoists on work sites, taking these three steps can keep them safe.

1. Assess Your Work Site

The material hoist must be suited to the project at hand. Take a comprehensive look at your work site to examine the characteristics of the structure and how employees can move materials safely around it. By familiarizing yourself with the physical makeup of the building, the surrounding job site and the work being performed, you can determine the best type of material hoist for the project and how best to use it to safely move materials.

It’s also important to remember that building construction has changed considerably over time, allowing for greater options for hoisting materials and transferring them between a hoist and a building.

“Typically, in the past, a material hoist would go onto a structure that was completely vertical and it would run from the ground to the different levels of the building carrying material,” explains Shanon Beekman, vice chair of the A10.33 Subcommittee. “Our buildings aren’t just straight up and down anymore, we have other aspects to consider such as angles, different facades and edging.”

The updated A10.5 standard now allows for hoist to move on an incline so they can follow the building, rather than just moving vertically. Allowing hoists to move at an angle can be particularly beneficial if the building has scaffolding and you have to move materials between scaffolding as they are transferred to the building. This not only helps improve safety but can also help save time by transporting materials directly to the location where they are needed.

“Previously, there were a lot of issues with the transfers from the material hoist to the building because scaffolding only allowed so much clearance,” Beekman explains. “Now we have a system where you can go to every level of the scaffolding, and we are not carrying material from one level down to the next because the material hoist can't go there.”

Appendix A of A10.5 includes a job-site survey with guidance on different conditions to assess before beginning work, such as the location of work areas, walkways and passageways, material storage areas, vehicle movement around the site and the location of any utilities.

2. Conduct Daily Inspections

Before the work begins each day or at a shift change, the hoist operator should inspect the hoist and surrounding area to verify the hoist is working properly and the area is free of hazards. This inspection includes simple measures such opening and closing doors and activating up/down buttons on the hoist to confirm those functions are working properly, and looking for any change in conditions since the hoist was last used.

“We want authorized users to conduct a visual inspection of the area around the material hoist to make sure that nothing has fallen onto it and no equipment has backed into it,” says Beekman. “There are many moving parts on a job site on a day-to-day basis and we want to make sure that something hasn’t happened between shifts or when the operator or authorized user wasn’t at the hoist.” 

Beekman says users should also inspect the area underneath material hoists as well for any erosion. Material hoists need a solid foundation to provide an optimal level of safety, so periodic checks for any water that has accumulated beneath a hoist can help you ensure it has a good foundation before it is used.

Additional items on the daily safety checklist in A10.5 include:

  • Check for fallen hardware in and around the hoist
  • Look for any signs of oil leaks around the gearbox and motor
  • Confirm all guards and panels are in place
  • Perform trial runs with emergency stops engaged to verify functionality
  • Verify that wind speeds do not exceed safe operating conditions

3. Perform Monthly Equipment Checks

While daily inspections are primarily visual, performing monthly equipment checks allow maintenance personnel to make any improvements and adjustments to the hoist so it continues to be safe to use.

Monthly hoist maintenance could include making sure attachment points are secure, torque specifications are  correct and no components have become loose during use. If any issues are found, maintenance personnel can then make any repairs, adjustments or replacements to keep the hoist in service.

A10.5 also advises that you also assess these conditions during monthly checks:

  • Check support conditions of the base frame
  • Inspect the mast and motor pinion for damage, alignment errors or defective connections
  • Tighten all the bolted joints between the components of the mast
  • Confirm electric motor brake functions properly
  • Verify the trailing cable is not damaged, twisted or pinched

Performing daily and monthly checks of a material hoist and surrounding area creates a system in which construction workers and maintenance staff are familiar with the hoist and know how to make sure it is safe to use.

“Through the course of one month we have multiple sets of eyes looking at this piece of equipment to make sure it's safe for everybody to use,” says Beekman. “The key point behind this is making sure we have a lot of these checks and balances of making sure the equipment is proper, it's running, it's functioning properly and running properly. Bottom line is, it's all about safety.”

Listen to our podcast episode with Mike Morand and Shanon Beekman of the ANSI/ASSP A10.5 Subcommittee to learn more about material hoist safety.

Related Links
ANSI/ASSP A10.5 - 2020, Safety Requirements for Material Hoists
ASSP’s Construction Safety Resources
Construction Hoists: Understanding Exposures and Controls
Urban Construction: Building Code Requirements Improve Safety and Health
Construction Design: Its Role Incident Prevention


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