For many years, in vehicle workshops across the land, a battle has been fought between advocates of traditional vehicle pits and those who favour the flexibility of lifts.
Of course, in some cases, there can only be one winner. In VoSA registered workshops a pit is compulsory to comply with inspection regulations but in workplaces where maintenance and repair are the primary activity the argument is not so straightforward.
Heavy-duty vehicle lifts have been around for a long time now, but there are still a few old-timers out there who feel more comfortable working beneath a bus or truck that’s supported by solid ground. What they may fail to realise is that there are far more health and safety risks associated with pits than lifts.
When not in use, there is a real risk of people falling into them and whilst health and safety regulation requires them to be cordoned off, this takes valuable time and is not always 100 per cent effective.
Once inside the pit, engineers are also exposed to other risks, such as fuel spills and in such an enclosed environment it can be difficult to escape in an emergency. Fire and fumes are particularly dangerous. Equally, it can be harder to rescue someone using the pit should they be involved in an accident or be taken ill.
Heavy-duty vehicle lifts, on the other hand, enable work to be carried out on vehicles in a more open environment, with easy access from all sides. Mobile column lifts can be moved out of the way when not in use and the latest cable free models further reduce the risk of trips and falls. Even static, fixed post lifts represent less of a risk of falls than an open pit.
Whilst there are always inherent risks when working under a vehicle that can weigh many tons, when operated correctly – in line with the manufacturer’s instructions and health and safety guidelines – lifts offer significant health and safety advantages.
One argument often used in defence of pits, is their ease and speed of use. It’s quick and convenient to drive or roll a vehicle over a pit but even this has its drawbacks. When in place, the vehicle is at a fixed height and the engineer or mechanic has no flexibility to when it comes to working at a comfortable height for the task in hand.
Furthermore, time can be wasted moving ancillary equipment in and out of the confined space in the pit rather than being simple rolled or lifted into the correct position below the vehicle.
However, perhaps the most significant factor to consider when considering the pros and cons of pits v lifts, particularly in these times of economic times, is cost.
The cost of installing a pit can run into many tens of thousands of pounds and, perhaps more significantly, it can cause weeks of disruption to workshop operations. The costs in terms of reduced productivity can add significantly to an already substantial bill and these are all costs that are unlikely to be recouped – in fact additional cost will be incurred if the workshop ever needs to be reinstated to its previous state.
A well maintained and regularly serviced lift on the other hand, which may take less than a day to install, will retain much of its value for many years. In most cases, the initial purchase costs will also be well below that of a pit installation, with the cost of a new set of column lifts starting from as little as £12,000.
So when all the evidence is weighed up, a clear winner does begin to emerge. By choosing a lift over a pit, coach and bus, commercial vehicle and specialist vehicle operators can enjoy greater flexibility, improved health and safety, more efficient workshop operations and better value for money.
So really the message is simple, if you don’t need to invest in a pit, don’t! Simply invest in a quality lift, instead.