Safe Lifting Guide

(U.K. Regulations apply)

All lifting operations must be;

“Properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out safely.”

(Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, Regulation 8) 

All those involved should be committed to providing safe lifting operations whether these are performed under Crane Hire or Contract Lift conditions.

Even the best planned lifting operations can go wrong due to unforeseen circumstances, but by using the following guidelines all involved can reduce the risk substantially. In determining whether a person is ‘trained’ and ‘competent’, the majority of contractors follow the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) which is organized and administered by the Construction Industry Training Board and City and Guilds. This provides independent assessment and certification of individuals.


Key responsibilities

The key responsibilities and personnel to provide a safe lift are outlined below:

Appointed Person: Under BS7121 Part 1 the role of the Appointed Person is to provide a safe system of working by:

Properly planning the lifting operation by the preparation of a comprehensive Risk Assessment and Method Statement. In producing these documents the Appointed Person must take account of:

  • The site – access and egress, gradients, ground type, excavations, overhead electric or telephone cables and other proximity hazards.
  • Potential weather conditions, in particular wind and thunderstorms.
Selecting a crane of suitable capacity to perform the operation with an adequate margin of safety including:
  • The size and type of crane, its duties and outrigger settings and loadings, the radius at which it will work and boom length.
Selecting the appropriate load handling equipment, including chains, slings, lifting beams, spreaders, lifting eyes etc. taking account of:
  • The load – weight and dimensions, lift points, sharp edges and location before and after the lifting operation.
  • The weight of the equipment to be used and the impact on the overall weight to be lifted.
Determining the method of attaching the load to the crane (the slinging technique).
  • Ensuring that the crane and lifting equipment has current test certification and has no obvious defects.
  • Ensuring that the Lifting Team is trained and competent and has been properly briefed.

The Appointed Person must prepare the Risk Assessment and Method Statement himself, but may delegate some or all of the other duties to a competent person such as a Crane Supervisor or other competent person who could take responsibility for the lifting operation on site. Any amendments to the Risk Assessment or Method Statement that may be necessary due to changes in site conditions must be approved by the Appointed Person.

Crane Supervisor: The Crane Supervisor directs and supervises the lifting operation if this responsibility has been delegated to himby the Appointed Person. He therefore accepts all the duties and responsibilities that the Appointed Person would perform on site and ensures the lift is carried out in accordance with the Method Statement. He has the authority to halt the operation if he considers it dangerous to proceed.

Crane Operator: The Crane Operator is responsible for the safe working of the crane within the safe system of work (the Risk Assessment and Method Statement) and the manufacturer’s instructions. The crane operator should:

  • Be trained on the specific model of crane being used
  • Understand and follow instructions in the Method Statement, duties chart and operating manual of the crane
  • Rig the crane safely.
  • Understand the effects of various weather conditions on the safety of the lift.
  • Be able to take action to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Understand that the lifting of the load is under his control and be able to stop the operation if it becomes unsafe.

Slinger/Signaller/Banksman: The duties of Signaller, Slinger and Banksman are often combined in to one person’s responsibility and it is usual for thisperson to be competent and certified in all three functions. However, on larger or more complex lifts these duties may be performed by separate individuals and the duties are described separately below;

Slinger: The Slinger is responsible for attaching and detaching the load and for using the correct lifting equipment in accordance with the Method Statement. The Slinger directs the Crane Operator to take the weight of the lift load and ensures the load is safely slung before it is lifted to any height. The Slinger is also responsible for checking there are no overhead obstacles and for the attachment of a tag line for controlling the load once suspended, if required by the Method Statement or site conditions.

Signaller: Once the load is suspended the Signaller relays directions to the Crane Operator for the movement of the load to its destination using either specified hand signals or via radio communications. If more than one Signaller is being used only one Signaller must give instructions at any one time and a safe system of transfer should be in place as responsibility moves between Signallers.

Banksman: The Banksman is responsible for guiding the crane safely on and off site, especially when the crane is reversing or performing tight manoeuvres. He is also responsible for directing the Crane Operator to the correct location shown on the Berthing Study (part of the Method Statement) and for ensuring there is hazard free access and egress and movement around site if lifts take place in different locations on site.


Calculation of Load

The correct assessment of the weight of the load to be lifted is essential to the safe performance of the lifting operation. It determines the capacity of the crane to be used, outrigger loadings and the rating of any lifting equipment. The following table is a useful guide to the average weight of different materials, but should be used with caution. Factors such as site conditions, water content and decomposition have an effect on the load. Irregular shapes are also much more difficult to judge than simple shapes, and residues in vessels can alter the calculations.


 Estimated Weights of Various Loads

Material Type

       Weight in kg/m3











Cast iron












Soft Wood


Hard Wood


Green Heart


                                    1000kgs = 1 tonne


Guide to BS7121

Summary of Requirements of BS7121 Parts 1 & 3

BS 7121 is the British Standard Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Cranes. It is recognized as best practice in the industry and has been drawn up by the industry in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). HSE recommends the use of BS7121 to any person or organisation who have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and who use or hire cranes. Whilst compliance to the code does not in itself confer immunity from legal obligations, failure to comply would be taken as prima facie evidence of failure to provide a safe place of work for employees and contractors. The code also gives guidance on how to comply with Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Provision and Use of Working Equipment Regulations 1998.

Part 1 gives general guidance and recommendations on the use of cranes whilst Part 3 deals specifically with the use of mobile cranes.

The basic requirements of BS7121 are:

Safe System of Work: This should include:
  • Planning of the operation
  • Selection of the crane and suitable lifting equipment
  • Preparation of the site
  • Examination of the crane and equipment
  • Provision of properly trained and competent operatives and supervision
  • Examination of test and other documentation
  • Prevention of unauthorized movement or use
  • Safety of persons not involved in the lifting operations

The usual methodology for planning the operation and meeting many of the above requirements is through a Risk Assessment and Method Statement.