Using material hoists safely

This Safety Alert provides guidance for employers on controlling the risk of people falling while using material hoists (including any associated vertical wire rope or rack-and-pinion equipment).



Material hoists (also known as builders or barrow hoists) come in different heights and are used to lift and lower heavy loads such as concrete, construction materials, tools and equipment.

Recently WorkSafe has found a number of material hoist installations that don’t have adequate gates and rely on administrative controls. This puts workers at risk of falling if any gates or barriers are opened while the hoist is in use and/or not at a specified landing.

As an employer, you must provide and maintain plant and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

Administrative controls, along with personal protective equipment, are the lowest level of risk control and should only be relied on if you are unable to: 1) eliminate the hazards or risks, 2) substitute the risks with lesser risks, 3) reduce the risks through engineering controls or 4) isolate people from the risks.

Control measures

WorkSafe expects that all material hoists, irrespective of height or number of serviced levels, should be fitted with engineering controls such as electrical and mechanical interlocking gates that ensure the:

  • material hoist can only operate when all gates are closed and latched
  • landing gate can only be opened when the hoist is at that specific landing, with the remaining gates staying mechanically locked.

It is noted that material hoists designed to comply with AS1418.7 (1999) – Cranes (including hoists and winches) – Builders’ hoists and associated equipment may not have gates.

Therefore, to allow industry time to implement required controls, WorkSafe is giving owners and suppliers of material hoists until 1 January 2013 to fit engineering controls to the landings of all materials hoists. This is irrespective of height or number of serviced levels.

It is also recommended you ensure:

  • operators are familiar with all functions of every material hoist in use at your site, and know how to perform required pre-operational checks
  • operators have the relevant license to perform high-risk work (HM or HP)
  • the base area of the material hoist is protected to prevent people accessing the area underneath and being exposed to the risk of the moving hoist or falling materials.

More information

  • Manufacturer / supplier specifications.

Australian Standards

  • AS 1418.7 (1999) – Cranes (including hoists and winches) – Builders' hoists and associated equipment.
  • AS 2550.7 (1996) – Cranes - Safe use – Builders' hoists and associated equipment.