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April 01, 2006  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Safety Standards Are Key With Vehicle Lifts

Today’s vehicle lifts have numerous built-in safety features, but technicians still need to know and follow safety guidelines and inspect lifts daily.

by Adam Ruseling, Editorial Assistant

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A common train of thought is that in order to learn, we must first learn from our mistakes. But for those who work with vehicle lifts, the trial-and-error learning process is not a safe approach. The first mistake a technician makes around an automotive lift could be his last, because buses can fall from lifts in a split-second.

While some accidents are attributable to improper installation or poor manufacturing, accidents related to improper operator use can be readily avoided through training and proper maintenance.

According to Service Tech Services, a lift safety inspections company in Simi Valley, Calif., more than 15,000 accidents causing death or hospitalization occur every year from lift-related accidents.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Website,, documents a number of tragic deaths and debilitating incidents that have occurred over the years from vehicle-lift accidents.

Safety first
One of the greatest safety resources available to those who operate vehicle lifts is the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI). The ALI is an association of lift manufacturers focused on promoting safety in the design, construction, installation and use of lifts.

The ALI sponsors a “Program of Certification” for lifts through a contract with Intertek Testing Services, a worldwide testing organization recognized by OSHA.

The ALI recently released a new “Safety Tips” placard, which describes general safety precautions that should be taken to help avoid injuries. The placard, which can be ordered through ALI’s Website,, should be posted where it can be a constant reminder to lift operators. Here are the 11 safety tips:

1. Inspect your lift daily. Never operate if it malfunctions or if it has broken or damaged parts. Repairs should be made with original equipment parts.

2. Operating controls are designed to close when released. Don’t block open or override them.

3. Never overload your lift. Manufacturer’s rated capacity is shown on nameplate affixed to the lift.

4. Positioning of vehicle and operation of the lift should be done only by trained and authorized personnel.

5. Never raise vehicle with anyone inside it. Customers or bystanders should not be in the lift area during operation.

6. Always keep lift area free of obstructions, grease, oil, trash and other debris.

7. Before driving vehicle over lift, position arms and supports to provide unobstructed clearance. Do not hit or run over lift arms, adapters or axle supports. This could damage lift or vehicle.

8. Load vehicle on lift carefully. Position lift supports to contact at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended lifting points. Raise lift until supports contact vehicle. Check supports for secure contact with vehicle. Raise lift to desired working height. Caution: If you are working under vehicle, lift should be raised high enough for locking device to be engaged.

9. Note that with some vehicles, the removal (or installation) of components may cause a critical shift in the vehicle center of gravity and result in raised vehicle instability. Refer to the vehicle manufacturer’s service manual for recommended procedures when vehicle components are removed.

10. Before lowering lift, be sure tool trays, stands and other equipment are removed from under vehicle. Release locking devices before attempting to lower lift.

11. Before removing vehicle from lift, position arms and supports to provide an unobstructed exit (see Item 7).

Need a lift?
There are many companies offering different types of vehicle lifts for the school bus industry. Each lift type is designed for a specific lifting capacity and length. Lifting capacities can range from less than 10,000 pounds to more than 130,000 pounds. Here are current models from seven key manufacturers:

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