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Vehicle lifts

So you have purchased (or looking to purchase) a Vehicle lift and have it installed correctly (to comply with  BS7980 standards) … however, do you know that because the lift is to be used in the workplace, the garage proprietor will also be required to meet at least two UK HSE regulations, these are known as:  
  • The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulation (LOLER)
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER).
LOLER calls for a thorough examination of any lifting equipment. PUWER mandates that work equipment must be regular maintenance. So before using the vehicle lift for the first time, it’s the garage owner/employer’s responsibility to make sure that the vehicle lift has undergone a thorough examination by a competent person. This checks that the installation of the lift is OK and is safe to use … it’s similar to having a registered gas fitter checkout your cooker or heating system before using it. Note: the engineer who installed the lift is not able to do the inspection (in simple terms your not allowed to mark your own work). Once a lift is in use LOLER also states that the lift must be thoroughly examined and certified every 6-months by a competent person, where PUWER states that it should have a schedule of maintenance and associated records kept. Note, As above the person who perform the maintenance (Servicing) is not allowed to do the thorough examination.

Positioning of the equipment. It may seem obvious where you need to locate the equipment in the workshop, so you have easy access and egress on and off the lift and you have suitable headroom above the lift to not cause any damage when the vehicle is lifted up, but there are again some legal and safety requirements you need to consider. The first being under BS7980 any moving part of the lift must be a minimum of 600mm or less than 12mm from a fix or adjacent object for the complete travel of the lift (Note this does not refer to recesses the lift may be fitted into that's covered separately)  there may be other regulation that dictate a general clearance around the lift such as fire regulations and if the equipment is being used in a DVSA MOT site, the above is the HSE minimums only. Back to BS7980 (Vehicle lifts, Installation maintenance and thorough examination) the distances quoted are designed to reduce the possibility of a person being struck / trapped whilst the lift is being operated. The most common vehicle lifts currently in use in the UK are either 2 post or 4 post, which have the moving part on the inside of the post as such the 12mm minimum does not really come into play so you will always be working with the minimum 600mm distance.

Recesses / toe traps. All CE certified lifts will incorporate systems to reduce the risk of entrapment, this can be either anti entrapment bars / devices fixed to the side of the lift or electronic alarms. Anti entrapment devices should never be removed and should be part of the thorough examination process, none operating safety devices could invoke a probation notice on that equipment! Recessed lifts, if a lift is installed into a recess and does not have any electronic systems to reduce entrapment then BS7980 will specify minimum clearance required around the lift, these sizes will vary depending on the configuration of the lift (drive on reverse off or drive through). Lifts with electronic detection and audible alarms  can be fitted with minimal clearance between the lift and the recess.

Foundation and fixings. All vehicle lifts sold in the UK must meet the CE (or the new UKCA marking) requirements as set out in EN 1493, as part of these requirements every lift design is tested and certified as safe, the technical supporting documents will identify the minimum quality and depth of the foundation and the fixing that must be used when installing the lift into a site. your equipment supplier should be able to supply this to you. The other issue which is not so clear is when it comes to site specifics things such as distance from an edge of the slab, expansion joints in the floor slab, Crack or holes drilled into the floor slab from previously installed equipment. General rule of thumb for example should be if the lift requires 160mm floor fixings then you should have this same distance from any edges, crack or previous holes so as to not effect the stress cone of the fixing . see images below. note this distance can be reduced if the previous holes / crack are professionally filled / repaired, but your would need to seek advise from a suitably qualified professional / structural engineer on such work.

Installation. A vehicle lift should only ever be installed  by a competent person (ideally be GEA accredited for lift installations) and they should issue you a certificate to say they have installed it be BS 7908 specifications.

  Rated Capacity  Commonly when you source a vehicle lift, once you have decided what type of lift you need, 2 post, 4 post etc the next decision is the lifting capacity (weight) the lift has been designed and certified as safe to lift. Lifting capacity is normally in KG i.e. 4000KG (approx. 4 metric tons)  this is the total maximum lifting capacity you can use the lift for, but the actual capacity of the installed lift could be less, see SWL section below.

SWL (Safe Working Load) This can be different from the rated capacity of the lift, example being you have sourced a 4000Kg capacity lift but when the load test was conducted it was only load tested using a 3000Kg certified weight, then the lift must be marked as SWL 3000Kg and not the design lifting capacity.

Load Testing. As already stated a lift must undergo a thorough examination before being used, this will include a load test. This may also be completed by the installation engineer depending on contractual agreements when purchasing the equipment. The load test purpose is to ensure the lift as installed on that site (including foundations and fixings etc) will handle the required loads it needs to carry, the lift has already been tested and certified to a lifting capacity by the manufacture as part of the original approvals so its the installation that's being tested and verified. Completing a load test, will require a certified load to be applied (weighted vehicle from a local weigh bridge).

Floor marking (recessed lifts) BS7980 states that distance of 300mm around the edge of the recess should be marked with yellow stripes at a 45Deg angle

Training records. A vehicle lift should only be operated by a suitably trained and competent person, each lift design / manufacture may have different systems, so it is strongly recommended that all potential operators of the equipment have training on the its use and this is formally recorded.  
  • NEVER try and use a lift in a way its not been designed to do so, such as only using  2 arms on a 2 post lift to raise only one end / side of a vehicle!
  • NEVER override / disable the safety system / alarms fitted to a lift, they are there for a reason to keep you and others safe!
  • HSE have released guidance on working with vehicle lifts use this link to visit the HSE website on this subject.

Maintenance. We advised previously that UK HSE regulation (PUWER) states that this type of workplace equipment should have a  maintenance program in place, many lift manufactures also give guidance on other periodic maintenance that should be completed to ensure its continued safe and reliable use, this is often broken down as daily / weekly / monthly tasks, please refer to your specific equipment manuals for such guidance.
As per the description this type of lift has 4 posts (one at each corner) and the vehicle will be parked on the lifting platform, so also commonly referred to as a platform lift. Typically this type of lift is electro hydraulic, which means it has a motor (normally electric) which turns a hydraulic pump that pressurises the lifting cylinder (normally under one of the platforms) this ram is then connected to each of the 4 posts using steel cables and pullies. As the ram moves it pulls up the lift platform, to allow the lift back down a valve is opened to allow the oil to returned to the oil reservoir. CE certified lifts have multiple safety devices,  the first is operated by the user and is parking or locking button, this is normally a separate button on the control so when the vehicle is raised to the desired height the lift can be locked into a positive location so as it makes it much safer when a person is working under the vehicle. Other devices are:
  • Anti tilt in case a corner / end of the lift becomes stuck or blocked thus stopping the vehicle being tipped of the lift.
  • Broken wire sensing, if a lifting cable failed the lift is blocked from use.
  • Parachute valves, if hydraulics fail the lift will come down slowly opposed to dropping suddenly
  • top limit switch, so as to not go too high.
  • Safety stop, the lift should stop 120mm from any entrapment area, and then only descend with an auditable alarm sounding.
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