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Lift Inspections 101

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Annual lift inspections help protect service technicians by ensuring that the lifts they work under are installed correctly, functioning properly and adequately maintained. They can also help to identify potential issues before they become apparent to users. 

According to R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, president of the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI), doing so will not only prevent catastrophic failure, but also help your shop avoid OSHA fines. When an inspector discovers a maintenance issue as part of an annual inspection program, he says, the shop will usually have time to schedule a repair before it becomes a serious problem. Gorman discusses what every shop needs to know about lift inspections. ?

Within the U.S. repair industry, we are dealing less with law or regulation and more with safety standards and industry practices that are required under national standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and sponsored by ALI. This is important because health and safety officials across the country rely on these standards for guidance during facility visits. If a health and safety official visits a facility and the shop operator cannot demonstrate that his or her lifts have been inspected within the last year, the facility could be cited or fined. 

The same is true when operator training and planned maintenance is not documented. The regulation commonly referenced when such citations are issued is OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which states that “an employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment that are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” 

What this means to those working in the service and repair industry is that it is more important now than ever before to ensure compliance with work bay safety standards, because recent industry news has shown that health and safety officials are increasing their focus on vehicle service providers. Throughout the majority of states, a minimum annual inspection for each lift is required. Recommended maintenance varies by manufacturer and lift type, but technicians should make a habit of checking their lifts daily prior to using them. 

A qualified lift inspector can be found through the ALI Lift Inspector Certification Program. To join the ALI Lift Inspector Certification Program, an inspector candidate must have at least 12 months of experience inspecting vehicle lifts. Before being granted certification by ALI, each candidate must pass a pre-course exam, a course exam, and a series of practical experience inspections representing each of the seven major lift types. 

Every participant who completes the certification program is entered into ALI’s searchable online database, making it easy for lift users to find ALI certified inspectors. 

When inspecting a lift, inspectors follow a standardized procedure addressing operations, inspection, and maintenance of an automotive lift. Lift inspectors assess the lift, the bay and can often provide documented observations of other areas in the shop where safety is of concern. They also provide written reports containing repair recommendations to the facility manager or supervisor. The inspector then applies a dated label to each lift that passes inspection, so it is clear to management, technicians, clients, and health and safety officials when the last inspection took place. 

Here are some common issues to look for, as highlighted in ALI’s Lifting It Right training materials:

Two-post and in-ground lift telescoping arms:

Check over-travel stops for wear.

Examine arms for stress cracks, weld breaks or permanent bending.

Check swivel points and lubricate if needed.

Two-post and four-post lift chains and cables:

Check chains and/or cables for stretch or wear; have the system serviced if excessive slack or wear is present.

Inspect end connections for corrosion and deformation.

Remove any salt, sand, water, dirt or debris from chain system.

Hydraulic systems:

Maintain hydraulic fluid level per lift manufacturer’s requirements.

Make sure the return lines to the reservoir are tightly connected.

Check seals, packing and wipers for blow-by or oil leaks.

Inspect plungers for nicks, dings and dents.

The dated annual inspection labels provided by ALI Certified Lift Inspectors make it easy to keep track of a lift’s last inspection date. However, even if a facility’s lifts are properly inspected on an annual basis, health and safety officials can still issue citations if all lift operators are not trained. 

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