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Earthmoving equipment to lift loads

Safety Alert
3 March 2015

A person with management or control of plant must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that any plant used to lift or transport a freely suspended load is specifically designed for that purpose. Unlike cranes, earthmoving equipment (EME) such as excavators, front-end loaders and backhoes are not designed for the primary purpose of lifting loads.

Manufacturers of EME may configure the plant so that it can be used to lift freely suspended loads as a secondary function of the machine. However, EME should only be used to lift loads where it is not reasonably practicable to use a crane and where non-precision lifting is required.

EME is often used for non-core tasks such as lifting, moving and positioning loads, including pipes and construction equipment. Loads are freely suspended from purpose-designed lifting points fitted to such equipment.

Where it is necessary to use EME for lifting/suspending operations other than those indicated above, or where variable rated capacities are specified, Australian Standard AS 1418.5: Cranes, hoists and winches – Mobile cranes and Australian Standard AS 2550.1: Cranes, hoists and winches – Safe use – General requirements provides guidance on the minimum safe design and operational requirements.

EME is not suitable for lifting where:

  • precision lifting and placement is required, such as in structural steel erection or precast concrete panel placement
  • more than one item of plant is required for a lift – purpose-built plant such as cranes or side-boom pipelayers must be used in these special lift situations
  • stabilisers are required to achieve stability, unless the EME is fitted with stabilisers and they are deployed.

Risk control measures

In situations where EME is being considered for lifting loads as a secondary function, the following risk control measures should be considered:

  • the rated capacity, stability and suitability of the equipment is established
  • working load limits are displayed on the plant with an appropriate load chart
  • the design and location of lifting points (e.g. welded lugs) are compliant and inspected to the relevant manufacturer’s specifications
  • the load is only travelled with the lifting arm of the plant fully retracted
  • stabilisers are fitted and used to achieve stability of the plant
  • no person is permitted under a suspended load
  • operators are competent to perform the task
  • if a bucket operated by a trip-type catch is used, the catch is bolted or otherwise positively engaged
  • safe systems of work are developed and applied.

Lifting points

Loads may only be suspended from the manufacturer’s designated lifting point on the boom or quickhitch. The lifting point must:

  • form a closed eye
  • be arranged so that unintended unhooking cannot occur, and a sling cannot detach
  • be designed and fitted so that slings will hang clear of the boom or attachment
  • not be attached to quickhitch buckets designed for excavators, backhoes or front-end loaders
  • only be fitted to pinned front-end loader buckets that are specifically designed to accommodate lifting points.


Australian Standard AS 4772: Earth-moving machinery – Quickhitches for excavators and backhoe loaders provides guidance to those involved in the earthmoving industry on requirements for the design and use of quickhitches to mount attachments onto excavators and rear arms of backhoe loads.

In addition to standard retention systems, quickhitches must be:

  • fitted with secondary safety retention
  • positively and mechanically locked in an engaged position
  • intentionally disengaged before the attachment can be disconnected.

Quickhitches may only be used to support attachments specifically designed for that equipment and must be operated by a competent person.

Quickhitches must be maintained in a safe working order and be marked with the model and serial number, weight, maximum rated capacity and the capacity of each lifting point.

Safe systems of work

Safe systems of work must be developed and implemented when using EME for lifting.

Where the activity meets the definition of high-risk construction work [Regulation 291 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA)], a competent person must develop a Safe Work Method Statement for the operation.

This should consider:

  • choosing the correct equipment for the task
  • inspecting and maintaining the lifting gear
  • establishing an exclusion zone when loads are lifted near persons keeping transported loads as low and as close as practicable to the machine
  • not fixing taglines guiding loads to the lifting gear.

Records must be kept for all servicing, maintenance and repairs, including the details of all machine malfunctions that may occur.

Competency requirements

Where a jib attachment is fitted to EME, the operator must demonstrate additional training in the risks associated with crane operation.

Additional information