Everything You Need to Know About Chain Hoists
A chain hoist expert (Bart Dieben) and a renowned U.S. supplier of this popular product (FAD Equipment Store) explain what you need to know when buying and using chain hoists.
Chain hoists are one of the most used tools for material handling and lifting. There are electric and manual chain hoists, both of which are stocked here by FAD Equipment Store. (Pneumatic driven hoists for explosive or hazardous environments are a subject for another day.)
Did you know?
A chain hoist is considered by many to be the most basic form of lifting tool. They can be used in a multitude of different ways, not just to perform vertical lifts but also can be used to drag or position a heavy load. Manual chain hoists can also be used below-the-hook of a larger crane to allow for final, precise adjustments. Chain hoists are often purchased with ancillary equipment, such as beam clamps, shackles or slings to assist connection to the load.
Chain hoists have three uses:
- Lifting an object
- Pulling an object
- Load equalization
Applications are varied and include:
- Ship wharfs
- Paper mills
- Steel mills
- Production plants
- Maintenance works
- Renewable energy installations
- Vehicle & aircraft workshops
In fact, there are hundreds more.
Examples of items lifted or shifted by a chain hoist:
- Engines or motors
- Injection mould tools
- Steel coils
Despite how widespread and varied these hoists are—we provide them from 0.25 ton to 30-ton capacity—we are often asked simple questions about them, such as, ‘How does a chain hoist work?’
We were visited recently by Bart Dieben, a global lifting consultant and technical project lead, and owner of Dieben t.t. Bart has overseen the supply and use of chain hoists throughout his career, so it was interesting to compare notes about this ever-popular product.
A chain hoist is considered by many to be the most basic form of lifting tool. It is a device with very few parts that employs mechanical advantage to enable people to lift or move heavy loads, either by operating a hand chain, using a pendant control, or utilizing wireless remote control. Key components include the load chain, chain sprocket (the wheel that grabs the chain and uses it to lift), motor, brake, and gearbox. They combine to make the product very simple to use.
Bart explains that one of the additional benefits of chain hoists is that they don’t need to always perform a vertical lift, as is the case with a wire rope hoist (also stocked by FAD Equipment Store). They can work horizontally and diagonally—and, in some cases, they can even be inverted and climb their own chain. Therefore, they are so common in the entertainment sector. However, the wider range of brands and capacities are seen in industry, where they are found on commercial building sites and in various construction workplaces, warehouses, storage facilities and factories. In the theatre and events sector, it is unlikely that a chain hoist will be found much above the 2-ton capacity point.
What do you need to think about when buying a chain hoist?
Considerations when sourcing a chain hoist are numerous and include the height of lift, speed of lift, environment of lift, shape and size of load, duty cycle (how often it is being used and at what percentage of its rated capacity), and power. It is also important to think about the pick points on the load, its center of gravity, and how many chain hoists might therefore be required. Four chain hoists may be used on all four corners of a load, or an individual unit could lift a single item.
Before a chain hoist arrives on site, users need to factor in somewhere to hang it. It might go on a trolley, beam, or eyebolt. FAD Equipment Store stocks trolleys and hangers and mounting points (beam clamps or push beam trolleys) for our popular hoists, for example. Every time, the product or part of the building that the hoist is attached to must be calculated and rated to ensure it can safely hold the hoist and its load. Unless a manual hoist is being used, a voltage supply is also necessary. Most electric hoists operate on standard domestic power supply.
Manual chain hoists remain widely used
Manual chain hoists, like our Crosby Acco and OZ Lifting products, remain more commonly used than some people realize. As Bart says, it isn’t the case that everyone wants or needs a remote-controlled electric chain hoist. In one recent case study, manual units were employed below-the-hook of a larger crane to allow for final, precise adjustments once the larger lifting and moving application had taken place.
They are also popular among end users where there is a requirement for a one-off lift. Not only are manual chain hoists easy to rig and operate, but they are often lighter, so the complications with transporting and rigging a larger unit are eliminated.
Our OZ Lifting stainless steel hand chain hoist (more below) is manufactured to CE, ASME B30.16 and AS1418.2 standards. However, there aren’t a great number of standards that specifically reference chain hoists, at least not at the point of use. Bart says using these products is, ‘Like riding a bicycle,’ but that doesn’t mean care shouldn’t be taken in buying, using, maintaining, and storing them. It helps to have a broad understanding of the way heavy or large equipment works as an operational starting point.
What are the best chain hoists for different uses?
This is another question we get asked a lot.
Sometimes, this comes down to preference and other times it is based on the specific requirements of the job and / or the environment. Earlier, we looked at some of the key considerations when making a purchasing decision but it’s prudent to look closer at the properties of different products and how that leads to productivity and safety at the point of use.
Our range of electric chain hoists includes our popular OZ Lifting electric hoist that is perfect for workstation applications. Users can, as we’ve explored, choose between pendant-controlled or telemetry remote-controlled hoists. Our electric chain hoists are easily portable, making them suited to an even wider range of applications. Popular features include overload protection, load sheave, grade 80 alloy steel chain, forged carbon steel load hook with a heavy-duty latch, and precision machined gears that are heat treated for strength and durability.
Our manual chain hoists, meanwhile, range in capacity from 0.5 tons up to 30 tons and are used in many machine shops. In a lot of cases, these chain hoists, often called chain fall hoists, can be used for lifting, positioning, hoisting, or pulling.
Chain hoists are widely used in environments where stainless steel is a preferred material; our earlier mentioned OZ Lifting stainless steel hand chain hoist, available in capacities from 0.5 ton to 2 tons, is also suited to low headroom applications. These (304) stainless steel hand hoists are corrosion-resistant, strong, durable, and rugged, with forged stainless-steel hooks and safety latches. This is a versatile tool that can be used for lifting or pulling; it provides maximum lift by minimizing the space taken up by the hoist so is ideal for tight headroom work.
Our stainless-steel beam clamp, available in 2,000-lb. and 4,000-lb. capacities, joined our stainless-steel chain hoist, designed for lifting and pulling, and a push beam trolley. The beam clamp (for I-Beams) will often be used in conjunction with a hoist and serves as an additional option if the end user wants to quickly mount the beam clamp along a beam and attach a hoist to make a lift.
So, it’s clear that there is more to a chain hoist than meets the eye, and many more features than many people realize.
Which chain hoist do you need?