A wide variety of types of lifting equipment are available, designed to meet either specific or general needs. A wide range of industries use lifting equipment – everything from mining to the theatre industry relies on it to move heavy items. Each kind of lifting equipment is designed to do a different kind of job. For people new to the area, trying to establish which kind of equipment is right for the job they need to do can be confusing. However, as the lifting equipment industry is specialist and highly regulated, anyone working in it should be able to provide expert advice if needed. As a starting point, these are some of the main types of lifting equipment and their uses:
Cranes are one of the most commonly uses pieces of lifting equipment, and have been in use since Roman times. There are many different types of crane, from the huge cranes seen on large building sites, to small wall mounted cranes used in manufacturing and other settings. Cranes can either be mobile, or fixed. They have one of several different kinds of mechanisms for lifting items – normally either a pulley or a lever system.
A winch is a length of cable which is wound around a spool. One end is attached to the weight to be moved, and it is then cranked (by machine in industrial settings) to lift it. Winches are very versatile, and can be used to lift a wide variety of items. They are well-used in the theatre, where they are used to moves stage sets and lighting.
A hoist is similar to a winch, but is used to lift things off the ground, whereas a winch can also be used to pull things. However, both can be used to do either, but they have different braking systems, so the kinds of weights they can lift or move are not the same. It is important not to use the wrong one for a job – doing so could be very dangerous.
Lifting trucks and other vehicles are used to lift items and move them to another place. Forklift trucks are the most common type of lifting vehicle, used in warehouses, manufacturing, transport and other settings to move goods in and out. They generally use hydraulic cylinders to move their forks, and therefore their loads, up and down. They generally lift fairly small loads, as if they were too large they would be difficult for their drivers to manoeuvre effectively.