Safety Alert

Patient handling – Portable ceiling hoists

Information for employers about the safe use of portable ceiling hoists (PCHs).

Print or download a PDF version of this document Date Published: February 2014 Keycode: ALE0167/01/09.13 Division Author:


There have been several incidents where PCHs with latching hooks and open hook wands or just wands (also known as extension arms) have failed when transferring patients, causing serious injuries.

PCHs may fail if:

  • latching hooks do not close properly
  • latching hooks have been incorrectly attached to the wand. This may result in the hook latch being damaged, causing it to open and the hook to disconnect
  • open hook wands have been incorrectly placed on the ceiling track eyelet, resulting in the wand slipping out of the eyelet while a person is being hoisted. See Figure 1.

Hoist showing the failure of hooks

Figure 1: PCH that uses a latching hook and open hook wand.

Control measures

As an employer, you must provide a working environment for your employees that is safe and without risks to health. This includes providing and maintaining plant such as PCHs.

As an employer you must also ensure that persons other than employees, such as patients, are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

If possible, use permanently installed fixed hoists that have load-rated hoist suspension components and do not rely on latching hooks and/or open hook wands. See Figure 2.

If using PCHs:

  • Ensure the hoist suspension components (hook, wand) lock together with ceiling rail during their connection. See Figure 3.
  • Ensure load ratings are identified and marked on hoist suspension components, and records of these ratings are retained at your workplace.
  • Where wands have to be used, ensure they feature a latched hook that automatically closes when a load is applied to the wand, such as when the PCH is attached and/or when lifting a person. These wands need to be load rated with the rating information available to employees. See Figure 4.
  • Provide information, instruction and training to employees on how to properly check, connect and use PCHs – including undertaking pre-operation and post- connection checks.
  • Arrange regular inspection, testing and maintenance of PCHs. It may be necessary to engage a third-party service provider who has expertise in hoist inspection and maintenance.
  • Withdraw and dispose of damaged, worn or faulty hoist components. If inspection records (including inspection tags) for PCH components cannot be located or have become illegible, withdraw the relevant components from service. Inspect and verify these components are safe for ongoing use or dispose of them.
    Note: Hoist components have a design life (check with manufacturer/supplier for design life information) and once that period is exceeded, components may be unsafe and should not be used.


Figure 2: Examples of a permanent hoist that does not use wands and hooks. There are also lifting modules with a quick-release system that allows the relocation of the lifting module to another location.

Figure 2: Example of a fixed hoist.

Figure 3: Example of a PCH that features a ‘click-on/click-off’ socket connector between the ceiling rail and the hoist unit.

Figure 3: Example of a PCH that features a 'click-on/click-off' socket connector between the ceiling rail and the hoist unit.

Figure 4: Example of a portable hoist wand that features a latched hook that closes when any load is applied to the wand, rather than an open hook.

Figure 4: Example of a portable hoist wand that features  a latched hook that closes when any load is applied to the wand, rather than an open hook.

Further information

For more information about hoist and sling maintenance and testing requirements see:

  • AS 1418.1: Cranes, hoists and winches - General requirements
  • AS 1418.2: Cranes (including hoists and winches) - Serial hoists and winches
  • AS 2550.1: Cranes, hoists and winches - Safe use - General requirements
  • AS/NZS ISO 10535: Hoists for the transfer of disabled persons - Requirements and test methods.


This Safety Alert has been prepared using the best information available to the Victorian WorkCover Authority. Any information about legislative obligations or responsibilities is only applicable to the circumstances described in the Safety Alert. The Victorian WorkCover Authority does not warrant the information in this report is complete or up to date and does not accept any liability to any person for the information in this Safety Alert or its use.