Motor vehicle lifting tables

Posted: 04  March  2020

Whether fixing a fault, conducting an MOT or a general service, vehicles are often raised for work to be carried out and this is where much of the danger can lie. If the vehicle lifting equipment has not been properly installed and maintained, or the mechanic is not sufficiently trained or supervised, then there are serious risks, and as experience has shown, these can be fatal.

Incidents typically involve an equipment failure or the car falling off the lifting tables, and crushing the worker beneath it. This is why axle stands, for example, must be properly positioned and the vehicle chocked to ensure it is stable. Safety comes from having the right equipment which is well maintained and regularly inspected. Employees also need to understand how they also play a key role in managing risk.

Vehicle lifts are subject to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and regulation 9 (2) states: “Every employer shall ensure that, where the safety of lifting equipment depends on the installation conditions, it is thoroughly examined;

(a) after installation and before being put into service for the first time; and 

(b) after assembly and before being put into service at a new site or in a new location, to ensure that it has been installed correctly and is safe to use”. 

Thereafter, under the LOLER, regulation 9(3), lifting equipment should be thoroughly examined on a periodic basis. Due to the fact that persons work beneath the raised load, the periodicity for thorough examination within the UK is taken as being 6 months.

The inspection must be carried out by a ‘competent person’ – someone who possesses the relevant practical and theoretical knowledge, plus requisite training and qualifications to carry out the inspection and recognise defects.

They’ll produce a report, following a thorough examination and this will confirm whether the lift is installed correctly and is safe to use. The Competent Person will verify whether a load test has been satisfactorily carried out to ensure the lift is fit for purpose and able to bear a specified weight and that the concrete floor is also suitably thick and strong.

LOLER has the aim of reducing the risk of injury from lifting equipment used at work.

Garages may typically have a range of lifts but risk can increase if they have limited space and if they have a vast amount of work to do and in such cases, it may be tempting to use equipment which is less suited to a particular job.

All employees should be reminded of the need to use the right lift and to make checks to ensure that it’s in good condition. They should never work beneath a vehicle that is only supported on jacks. The most common lift types are:

Two-post lifts

These are popular and are an affordable option preferred by many garages. They take up less space and have a baseless structure, this offers better access for service and repairs.

Four-post lifts

These models are used when providing MOTs. They are less suited to work on tyres and suspension, unless there is an auxiliary lift. They take up more space than a two-post lift.

Scissor lifts

Typically more compact, there aren’t any posts in the way of doors. Because the lifting mechanism is likely to be under the lift it may not suit all types of work. They can lie flat on the garage floor, which helps in space constricted areas and vehicles can also be parked on top of them when not in use.

The HSE’s guidance, ‘Working safety under motor vehicles being repaired’ is an absolute must-read for both managers and if relevant, for employees too. This shows what can go wrong with numerous case studies of accidents and explains how to ensure equipment is installed correctly, what checks should be taken and maintenance advice.

Some of the guidance may appear obvious – so, using the correct equipment, being sure to use all necessary equipment and to understand how it is to be used – but simply trying to get a job done quickly and without due care can be catastrophic.

A range of installation advice and precautions are supplied within the HSE guidance and it also stresses that even though thorough examinations should take place every six months, there is still a vital role for employees to play in managing exposures.

Regular in-house safety checks are crucial and also that all equipment connected with lifting such as trolley and bottle jacks, props and axle stands should be examined yearly.

Employees should also be reminded not to just use tools that are close at hand to replace proper items – so pins for axle stands should be close fitting and of the correct specification and not the nearest screwdriver or bolt.

A worker attempting to repair a car away from a workshop and raising it with a forklift truck and blocks of wood – he was crushed when it slipped off the forks.
A mechanic tried to replace a gearbox with a car raised on a hydraulic trolley jack and two wheel-removal jacks – the vehicle slipped from the supports and also crushed him.
Another describes a trainee fitter being crushed when an HGV slipped from a hydraulic jack, axle stands were available but not used.

There can be no guarantees the right procedures are always going to be followed – but there have been cases where accidents have happened to experienced mechanics through complacency or where trainees haven’t known the right procedures. Injuries are not uncommon within the motor repair industry and so it is incumbent on all to keep working practices as safe as possible.

The HSE guidance contains various reminders, for example, on potential dangers and the message is that a rushed approach without due care and attention is hugely reckless.

Growing numbers of vehicles, such as SUVs, are heavy and if they are incorrectly positioned or not correctly balanced on the vehicle lift, they could topple off.

The guidance also refers to air suspension vehicles, such as some buses and coaches, and that no one should work beneath one of these unless it is safely propped up, or tamper with the ride height for the purpose of recovery or repair.

It is also advised not to do any hot work, such as welding, near a fuel line and that when a vehicle is being worked on, the mechanic should remove and keep the ignition key. There is also a reminder about the dangers of pits and when these need to be covered or surrounded by barriers to avoid anyone falling.

Meanwhile mechanics may also be required to carry out work away from the workshop, such as at a customer’s home, a car park or at the roadside. In such instances, the HSE advise that technicians should exercise caution if the ground is uneven or sloping and to always prop cabs and trailers that could drop under their own weight. If there are concerns about safety, then the vehicle should be towed to a workshop.

Many vehicle testing and repair centres have lifting tables in almost constant use and they can be subject to extreme wear and tear, which is why making time to ensure they are fully fit for purpose is essential.


Further information about the inspection process and also best practice in managing the risks within vehicle lifting tables can be found on HSE. 
Commentary and guidance in this article are provided for information purposes only and are not intended to amount to advice on which reliance should be placed.  Readers should seek further advice when dealing with their individual and particular situations. Allianz Insurance plc shall have no liability for any action taken as a result of and in reliance on the information contained in this article.