Vacuum Lifters for Windows and Sheet Materials

A vacuum lifter for windows and sheet materials is a lifting equipment used to handle and position windows and sheet materials.


A vacuum lifter for windows or sheet materials is an engineering control that can help reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) from manual material handling.  It is a device that use suction cups and an electric-powered vacuum to lift, hold, and position nonporous materials, including glass, plastics, engine valves, sheet metal, stone slabs, and appliances.  These vacuum lifters can attach to a forklift, a small counter-balanced crane built in the shop or a larger crane for outdoor work.  Vacuum lifters can also attach to positioners which allows glass panels to rotate and tilt during installation.

Manually installing large windows and sheet materials requires workers to handle heavy and bulky objects.  You may need to lift and carry them some distance to the installation site.  When installing them, you may have to use a lot of strength to hold them while they are placed and secured.

A vacuum lifter can be attached to a forklift, or to a small counter-balanced crane built in the shop.  It can also be attached to a larger crane for outdoor work.

vacuum lifter moving window
(Photo courtesy of NIOSH)

Risks Addressed:

Serious muscle and joint injuries arising from stress on the back and shoulders while lifting heavy and bulky objects to manually install windows.

How Risks are Reduced:

Vacuum lifters eliminate the need to manually lift and position heavy and awkward materials.

Manual handling of windows and flat panels becomes increasingly awkward and difficult as their size and weight increases.  Using vacuum or suction systems reduces hazards and fatigue.  Mechanical systems that position and hold the window or panel in place while it is secured result in even greater improvements.

Effects on Productivity:

Large window units and other panels can be installed without the usual physical stress that comes with lifting, carrying, holding, and positioning heavy objects. Using lifters will help reduce the possibility that a worker will develop a muscle or joint injury.

A vacuum lifter also keeps the fingers and arms from being caught in pinch points when positioning and setting the window or panel.

There should be a gain in productivity, since workers will be less fatigued and able to install more windows or panels. There may also be less damage to windows and other materials.

Additional Considerations:

In commercial buildings unitized building skin panels or windows can be placed from the interior of the structure with similar but larger equipment.  This can reduce crane hook-time and associated schedule costs, but can only be implemented at the design phase of the structure or building.  Designing windows and panels to weigh so much that mechanical lifting aides or cranes are required, because manual handling is impossible, may also reduce lifting injury risks.

Hazards Addressed:


Wood's Powr-Grip Company, Inc.
To obtain information, visit or contact 1-888-769-7474

Schmalz Inc.
To obtain information, visit or contact 1-919-713-0880

Anver Corporation
To obtain information, visit or contact 1-800-654-3500

Return on Investment

To calculate the return on investment (ROI) for your specific application, please visit our Return on Investment Calculator. While a specific ROI example has not been developed for this particular solution, the ROI Calculator provides a useful tool and guidance on how to generate your own on investment analysis.