You’d never drive a vehicle that hadn’t had the brakes inspected in years. You would never use a jack without also using a jack stand. These basic and common sense principles apply to vehicle lifts in your maintenance facility and daily inspections are part of your job. The vehicle lifts that are supporting the buses being repaired in your garage can represent one of the most productive tools in your shop, or one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment for your techs if not used and maintained properly.
Whether you’re using two-post lifts for cars and light trucks, parallelograms, mobile column lifts, drive-on lifts or in-ground lifts for servicing vehicles, you should follow these basic safety rules.
1. Buy Certified Lifts
There’s only one nationally recognized safety standard for vehicle lifts: ANSI-ALI/ALCTV, administered by the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI/ETL). ETL testing labs verify that a manufacturer’s lifts meet the national safety standard for vehicles lift.
The Automotive Lift Institute working through ETL testing procedures involves rigorous third-party testing verifying lift manufacturers comply with current ANSI requirements for lifts as defined by the International Building Code, which mandates that lifts be third party tested to meet these safety requirements. To verify equipment status, look for the gold ALI/ETL verification tag next to the lift’s controls.
2. Buy Certified Lift Options
A commonly overlooked mistake is using an uncertified option or accessory on a certified lift. Doing so will void the lift’s certification. It’s simple: If the optional accessory isn’t certified then the lift isn’t certified.
ALI/ETL standards (&ANSI standards & building code standards), require all accessories, such as drive-on lifts, rolling jacks and truck adaptors, to be certified. Although certification is good for the life of the lift, older models may not meet the most current standards.
Complying with American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) requirements is the key to keeping vehicle lifts at the highest possible safety level, sending your technicians home safely after each shift, and avoiding write-ups or hefty noncompliance fines.
3. No locks are liability
You’ve heard the phrase “never use a jack without a jack stand.” The same is true for vehicle lifts. Always raise the vehicle and then lower it onto the lift’s mechanical locks as required by ANSI. Refer to ALI safety manual Lifting it Right or the manufacturer’s operating instructions for detailed information.
When you’re walking through the shop, make sure techs are using the proper procedure. An easy way to visually verify the locks are being used is to include a weight gauge (a pressure gauge calibrated to the lift’s lifting capacity) on your lift. A weight gauge can also be a great diagnostic tool.
If using an old in-ground lift that doesn’t have locks, it’s time for a new lift. While some in-ground lifts can be retrofitted with an aftermarket lock, it’s not the most cost-effective option, and your lift will still not be ALI/ETL certified to be compliant with ANSI rules and building code laws.
4. It’s easy to overload
Manufacturers of the most common two-post side by side lifts mandate that none of the four swing arms be overloaded. For example: Some may think that a 15,000 pound rated lift that’s loaded with a 14,200 pound ambulance isn’t near capacity. They’re wrong!
This ambulance has a front axle weight of 4,000 pounds and the back axle weighs 9,200 pounds. The per-arm capacity of 15,000 pound-rated lifts is 3,750 pounds. If the heavier rear end of a vehicle weighs 9,200 pounds, each swing arm needs a minimum arm capacity of 4,600 pounds for safe lifting. Multiply this example by four swing arms and the minimum capacity of your lift for this vehicle should be 18,400 pounds.
It’s easy to see why two-post side-by-side lifts are often overloaded, even though the total lift capacity hasn’t been exceeded.
5. Inspect Equipment Annually
ANSI/Automotive Lift Institute ALCTV Standard for Automotive Lifts-“Safety Requirements for Construction, Testing, and Validation” requires technicians to perform a daily operational safety check. The code also requires an annual inspection by a qualified individual. Failing to do so exposes your shop to liabilities that could be associated with an injury if an accident were to happen.
6. Training and Testing
Like any product, lifts vary in style, type, capability, longevity and warranty. ANSI requires technicians to be trained annually in proper lift use. Contact the Automotive Lift Institute, your lift supplier, or a local lift inspection company for a copy of the 20-minute Lifting it Right video hosted by legendary NASCAR driver Richard “The King” Petty and his son, Kyle. Require your technicians to watch the video and pass a written test on lift operation and safety.