The right shop lift delivers productivity, safety gains

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Platform lifts
Platform lifts allow easy access to the entire undercarriage. These can also be combined in tandem for a platform that can accommodate an entire tractor-trailer.

TORONTO, Ont. — Using lifts in your shop instead of floor jacks, jack stands, creepers and pits makes an undeniable difference in productivity. The systems provide more convenient and comfortable access to every part of a truck that needs service. That lets technicians get more work done in less time, and with a lower chance of injury.

“When using a lift, ergonomic working heights and convenient controls can result in less physical strain — and fewer injuries — for your techs,” says Doug Spiller, Rotary Lift’s director of heavy-duty product management. “When it comes to safety, a lift provides more access and better lighting to the undercarriage. And techs are less likely to get debris in their eyes and ears with a lift than when they’re lying on a creeper under a truck.”

Creepers also force workers into awkward positions that can lead to muscle strain, particularly in the back and neck.

Every technician in the shop needs to be trained on the proper operation of each lift they will use. And that lift-specific training should be based on the lift manufacturer’s instructions, as well as publications from the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI), which certifies lift equipment in the U.S., Canada and other countries.

“For an easy reminder of basic lift safety tips, ALI offers an updated and expanded automotive lift safety tips card and new safety tips poster,” says ALI president, Bob O’Gorman. “Both feature 13 tips for safe lifting, including lift operation, maintenance and inspection.”

While there are no formal operator certifications required for using lifting equipment, technicians need to be competent in their operation, the unit’s safety features, and where applicable, the setup and operation of the lift.

In most Canadian provinces, various labor ministries require compliance with standards published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for automotive lifts as well as ALI’s Automotive Lift Safety Requirements for Construction, Testing and Validation (ALCTV). But while rules and regulations mandate certified lifts, there are no bans on selling non-certified equipment. The responsibility for purchasing a certified lift lies with the buyer.

For example, Ontario legislation requires employers to provide vehicle lift operators with information and instructions to ensure health and safety is protected. This applies to all workplaces where lifts are used, including dealerships, repair shops, towing operations, and gas stations.

“After comparing all available resources in Canada and south of the border, we determined that ALI’s Lifting It Right: 2014 Online Edition offered the only viable option to provide Workplace Safety and Prevention Services [WSPS] members with lift safety training,” says Norm Karmer, a health and safety consultant for WSPS. “ALI is credentialed as a nationally recognized standards development organization. It wrote the industry standard covering vehicle lift operation, inspection and maintenance, so users can trust that the safety training content is relevant.”

Likewise, WorkSafe BC recognizes the same publications from ANSI and ALI as the definitive safety and maintenance standards, along with some other pertinent documentation from the European Union related to product made overseas.

Operator training should be offered by the supplier and equipment installer. The top suppliers will provide initial training prior to commissioning the lift and offer follow-up training, online learning, and video instruction as the need arises.

“Nothing is more important than safety,” stresses Peter Bowers, technical sales support manager, Stertil-Koni. “It begins with the right mentality in the shop, communication and training. And we do that training.”

Then there’s the issue of maintenance. Suppliers have specific maintenance requirements and service intervals. It’s important they be followed to ensure continued safe operation of the lift, Bowers says. “Our lifts are designed provide safe reliable operation for many years, but the fleet must do its part and keep the device in good condition. That’s good for safety, reliability and productivity.”

Additional reading about shop lifts:

Understand the difference in shop lifts

Choose the right lift for your shop


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Jim Park was a CDL driver and owner-operator from 1978 until 1998, when he began his second career as a trucking journalist. During that career transition, he hosted an overnight radio show on a Hamilton, Ontario radio station and later went on to anchor the trucking news in SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking channel. Jim is a regular contributor to Today's Trucking and, and produces Focus On and On the Spot test drive videos.

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