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lever chain hoist

How to Use a Chain Hoist

When it comes to heavy lifting tasks, chain hoists make material handling much easier. These simple devices provide you with enough mechanical power to lift or hoist heavy loads considered too heavy or impossible to lift for a person in a safe and efficient manner. Whether you work in the manufacturing, construction or maintenance industry, chain hoists are prevalent, and knowing how these operate is crucial for overall safety.

Read on to learn more about chain hoists, the different types available for purchase, and how to safely use one on the job.

What is a Chain Hoist?

lever chain hoistA chain hoist, otherwise known as a chain block or tackle, are simple mechanical devices designed for lifting and lowering heavy loads with ease and precision. This tool consists of a chain (as well as wire rope for other models) wound around a drum or wheel, a set of pulleys, a hook or a lifting attachment. Some varieties include friction brakes to stabilize loads while in descent. Nevertheless, all models are generally fitted with some style of lifting hook with a self-locking feature.

The basic principle behind a chain hoist is the multiplication of force, allowing users to lift loads much heavier than they could by hand. By pulling down on the chain, this multiplication effect occurs through the use of the system of gears and sprockets in the device. As the force applies to these components of the device, it makes it easier to lift and reduces the amount of energy needed to pull.

In essence, chain hoists allow you to conserve your energy while performing heavy lifting tasks. Other devices that utilize the redistribution of force include snatch blocks, which offset the anchor point to reduce the effort needed to pull an object.

Types of Chain Hoists

In most industrial or construction settings, there are three types of chain hoists used: manual, electric, and pneumatic. Manual chain hoists operate by hand, while electric and pneumatic hoists utilize electrical and air compression as sources of power.

While most people would opt for an electric or pneumatic hoist for fast and easy lifts, manual chain hoists provide a cost-effective alternative that's easy enough to use and carry to different job sites. Plus, they offer better precision with lifting and lowering loads compared to other types.

Hand Chain Hoist

Hand chain hoists require the use of both your hands in order to operate them effectively. The simple design includes two loops of chain: one for pulling and the other connected to the load. These devices are preferred for hoisting up high vertical loads, but can also be pulled angularly to keep you at a distance from the load itself.. Once a load is suspended, you can continue to operate the pulling chain from the ground, so long as the load is secured to the hook. Depending on the make, hand chain hoists are designed to handle heavy loads of up to 20 tons.

U.S. Cargo Control offers four styles of hand devices from dependable brands Columbus McKinnon (CM) and Coffing:

Lever Chain Hoist

lever chain hoist from columbus mckinnon

On the other hand, lever chain hoists offer a similar design, only they include a single side lever attached directly to the lifting mechanism. These devices can be operated with one hand, making it easier to lift. However, to operate it, one must be close to the point of hook up. Lever devices are ideal for loads that need pulling in horizontal or angular directions, and can handle loads up to 6 tons.

U.S. Cargo Control offers 5 styles of lever chain hoists from the same brands listed above:

worker operating lever chain hoist in factory

How to Use a Chain Hoist

Using a chain hoist effectively requires a clear understanding of its components and proper operating procedures. Before using any of these devices, make sure they match the load requirements as well as the lifting height necessary for the job at hand. The devices must exceed the weight of the load you're lifting for safe operations. 

1. Attach Device to Anchor Point

Firstly, you want to attach the chain hoist to a solid anchor point before lifting begins. Most lifting hoists include an upper hook on top of the gear housing separate from the chain itself that secures the device for lifting. The anchor provides necessary stability in order for it to work. 

Therefore, ensure that the anchor point you use is stable enough to handle the load. This includes ceiling mounts, side mounts, trolley systems, and lifting equipment heavy enough to withstand the weight of the load. Another thing to consider is the positioning of your hoist over the load itself. Ensure that there enough room for you to lift, as well as plenty of slack on your chain hoist to reach the sitting load.

2. Secure the Load to the Chain

After securing the chain hoist, then you want to attach the lifting hook to the load itself. Make sure there is a safe place to attach your lifting hook to on the load. Verify that the hook is properly engaged and cannot slip off during the lifting process. 

3. Pull the Chain and Hoist Up the Load

Lastly, once you secured both the device and the load to the chain hoist, begin pulling up the load using either your hands or with the lever. While lifting, keep a close eye on the movement of your load in case it swings or sways uncontrollably. Use any available load-bearing aids or taglines to help control the load's movement, and always communicate with any colleagues assisting in the operation to ensure coordination and safety.

Keep your grip on the device at all times and maintain a steady and controlled manner of pulling. To lower the load, simply let up the grip slightly to release the chain. Do not let go of the device when lowering the load so as to prevent dangerous, rapid descent.

lever chain hoist used to remove tree stumps

Safe Lifting & Rigging with Chain Hoists

Mastering the use of a chain hoist involves safety awareness. By following the steps listed above, you can use these tools effectively and smoothly for a secure lifting operation. We provided additional tips below on safety protocols when handling these devices:

    • Always perform routine maintenance and inspections to ensure safe usage of the devices.
    • Never exceed the rated load capacity of the chain hoist.
    • Clear the workspace and keep the area around the chain hoist clear of obstacles and personnel to prevent accidents.
    • Use appropriate rigging hardware to attach the load securely.
    • Never stand underneath a suspended load, keeping a safe distance.
    • In case of a malfunction, familiarize yourself with emergency stop procedures and equipment.

Always consult the instructions and seek training if needed to ensure the safe and effective use of this valuable tool. Contact our product experts for any questions you may have on chain hoists.

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For any questions about our lifting and rigging products, reach out to our product experts at (866) 444-9990 or by email

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