grain elevator

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Written By Matt McTurk and Colton Hildebrandt

This is part three of our three part series on hand powered manlifts. In part one we discussed how to keep your entryway safe. For part two we went into the details of the structure surrounding the elevator car. Finally, in this part we will be discussing the elevator car and some tips to prepare for your inspections

Elevator Car

The car is what holds and transports the worker and his tools up and down the hoistway. It should be mostly enclosed with an inward swinging gate or door and should have an emergency exit in the form of either a second door or roof hatch. This would allow the worker to escape should the car become stuck or the main door blocked. The doors and emergency exits should be tested and in proper working order.

In some of the elevators we look at, the emergency exit is seized or welded shut making it impossible to exit in an emergency. Sometimes the original car didn’t have a door, or the doors don’t meet current code requirements, so companies will install custom fabricated doors. Other things we find during our inspections are cracks in the car frame, severe dents and missing fasteners.

The car is what holds the worker and his tools, so condition and safety is top concern here. It should be fully enclosed, except at the entrance. Once again, there should be an inward-swinging gate that should not be tied open. An emergency exit should be provided in case the main entrance is blocked (usually up through the roof). These items should be tested and in proper working order.


First, we have the dead-man brake inside the car. This brake is always on and is only released when the brake pedal is intentionally depressed. The dead-man brake is the main stopping device on the car and needs to be properly maintained. We look at all the brake components, linkages, fasteners and pads to ensure they are in good operating condition.

Second, there is the emergency brake. It activates only when the counterweight cable brakes or becomes slack. Since this brake is rarely (or never) used we find most of the time they are seized and won’t operate properly during an emergency. We highly recommend not only testing the function of this brake regularly but also cleaning and keeping the linkages free from debris.

Hand Rope

The hand rope runs from the upper frame structure, through the car, and is anchored to the floor. It is used by the operator to pull the car up or down to the different floors (if you don’t properly counterbalance the car for your weight this can be pretty exhausting). The rope should be made of hemp or similar material and should have a minimum diameter of 25mm.

The big thing you need to check for here is proper securement at the top and bottom of the elevator shaft and proper alignment where it passes through the cab; it needs to be clear of any sharp edges that could abrade or cut the rope. The most common thing we find with the hand rope is a rat’s nest knot or makeshift attachment at the top.

Tips for Getting Ready for an Inspection

When it is time for your annual structural inspection and you’ve booked your inspection with a company like Sparta Engineering, what kind of things should you be prepared for?

When we arrive on site we like to first check over any paperwork you have. So things like daily inspection logs, any maintenance records or previous inspection reports you may have and any original installation or engineering documents. Next we will do a general lookover of the manlift before we dive in.

Once we have assessed the general condition we proceed with a full in-depth inspection; checking function, critical components and taking notes on any code or safety related deficiencies. We make sure we are in contact with any employees that use the manlift and we will work with your employees to ensure we don’t slow down your production.

However, there will be times during the inspection that we will need uninterrupted access to the manlift. Depending on the size of the manlift, and the defects we come across during the inspection, it will take us anywhere from two to four hours to complete.

This is not a full list of items we look at while inspecting a manlift, some items we didn’t cover in this article include: The counterweight cable(s), minimum clearances, the floor safety latch, and the safety pin.

If you have any questions about inspecting your manlift, contact Sparta Engineering at (587) 315-0344. We’d be pleased to help.