Grain Elevator in Alberta

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Written by Matt McTurk and Colton Hildebrandt

Welcome to our three part series on hand powered manlifts. In this article we will be discussing the entryway and capacity.

When most people think of a manlift they think of equipment that you would see at a construction site, like a Genie aerial lift. However, today we are going to be talking about a different kind of manlift. The type of manlift we are going to be talking about is typically found inside a Grain Elevator, Feed Mill, or Seed Cleaning Plants.

For those that have never been inside a Grain Elevator, a manlift is a permanent structure used to transport personnel vertically from floor to floor. It is similar to an elevator in an office tower, but at the same time, it’s very different. There are three main types of manlifts; endless-belt type, hand-powered counterbalanced, and power-type. In this article we are only going to talk about hand-powered counterbalanced manlifts. 

Hand-powered counterbalanced manlifts are basically a platform or “car” that is intended for one person and is moved up and down an elevator shaft by hand power. We are going to talk about the different components that make up these manlifts and some of the common issues we come across during an inspection.

Remember that the proper OHS regulations and Safety Codes should always be consulted and followed, as this article only serves to help educate and deliver some general information.

Hoistway Entrance and Enclosure

From a safety standpoint, a proper enclosure and entryway is paramount. CSA B311 “Safety Code for Manlifts” details the specific requirements for hoistway entry points, but in a nutshell, the code requires that each landing be protected from someone entering the elevator shaft unintentionally or accidentally.

Where the hoistway is accessible to unauthorized personnel (typically the main floor/landing) the code requires almost a full enclosure guarding the hoistway from access. At other landings that aren’t easily accessible, the requirements are less and really only require a handrail and a self-closing gate.

One of the concerning things we see is that the hinges or spring mechanisms on these gates are worn out or sometimes the gates are tied open. This potentially leaves an open shaft for someone to fall into.

The hoistway entrance is often where we find the most code violations. Companies will often have most or some of the safeguards in place, but they sometimes don’t quite meet the requirements listed in the safety code. So one thing we do through our inspections is identify any code related deficiencies and work with our customers to help them bring their manlifts in-line with the latest safety codes.

From a safety standpoint, a properly maintained entryway is paramount. The code requires that each landing opening be protected from someone falling through using a door or gate. One of the concerning things we see is that companies will tie the gate permanently open for faster access. That means then when the manlift car isn’t at that floor, there is an open hole with no barricade protecting someone from falling through it.


The capacity of these manlifts cannot be greater than 135 kg (297 lbs). This includes any tools or equipment that the person is carrying. Something we see quite often is that the capacity isn’t labeled anywhere. There should be a data plate listing the capacity, manufacturer, suspension data, and the maximum weight the car is balanced for. If the data plate is missing, you can usually contact the manufacturer to get a new plate made.

Stay Tuned

In part two of our series on hand powered manlifts we will take a look at the structure that supports the car.

For more information, contact us today!