Solution Summary: Drywall Lift
The drywall lift is an engineering control that may help reduce lifting, carrying, and overhead work. A drywall lift mechanically raises sheets of drywall into place onto walls and ceilings.
A drywall lift is designed to move and lift panels of drywall into place prior to installation. Panels of drywall weighing up to 200 lb measuring up to 4 X 16 can be mounted onto most drywall lift models. The panels can then be moved horizontally by pushing or pulling the drywall lift, which typically sits on a 3-wheel base. Panels can also be moved vertically using a hand crank mechanism, which allows for easy installation of drywall onto high walls and ceilings. There are many types of drywall lifts.
Panellift® has several models of drywall lifts. Standard duty models 138 and 128 have a vertical reach of 11 ft, a load capacity of 150 lb, and are powered manually with a single-stage cable mechanism (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Panellift® standard duty model 138. (Photo courtesy of Paragon Pro Manufacturing Solutions)
The commercial duty model 439 has a vertical reach of over 14 ft, a load capacity of 200 lb, and is powered manually with a multi-stage chain mechanism (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Panellift® commercial duty model 439 and multi-stage chain mechanism. (Photo courtesy of Paragon Pro Manufacturing Solutions)
Professional duty model 460 has a vertical reach of over 14 ft, a load capacity of 150 lb, and is powered using a battery and a hydraulically controlled chain (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Panellift® professional duty model 460. (Photo courtesy of Paragon Pro Manufacturing Solutions)
All Panellift® models are compatible with the Model 195 Loader attachment, allowing for workers to load the lift from as low as 2-4 ft off the ground (Figure 4). In addition, extensions can be added to each model that allows workers to lift panels over 15 ft.
Figure 4. Panellift® with Model 195 Loader attachment. (Photo courtesy of Paragon Pro Manufacturing Solutions)
Heavy lifting and carrying can cause low back disorders, such as muscle strain or a disc herniation (“slipped disc”), which is bulging of disc material possibly pressing on the spinal cord or nerves that go into the leg. The drywall lift can help reduce heavy lifting and carrying by using a hand crank or battery power to lift drywall into place.
Overhead work can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as shoulder muscle strains; tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons; or rotator cuff tears, which is a rupture of a shoulder tendon. The drywall lift can help reduce heavy lifting and carrying by using a low hand crank or battery power to lift and move drywall into place and by having a loading height below the shoulders.
How Risks are Reduced:
A drywall lift minimizes heavy lifting and carrying and overhead work because it uses a hand crank or battery power to lift and move drywall panels into place on walls and ceilings.
Independent studies show that drywall installation puts workers at risk for low-back, upper-back, neck and arm injuries (Sengupta et al. 2014). Research shows that the number of injuries caused by drywall installation has significantly decreased in recent years because of increased safety awareness in the workplace and the use of tools such as drywall lifts (Schoenfisch et al. 2013). Studies have found that the use of drywall lifts reduces the risk of injuries, especially low-back injuries caused by heavy lifting and carrying (Hess, Kincl & Davis 2010; NIOSH 2006).
Safety and health experts believe drywall lifts will help to reduce heavy lifting and carrying because worker can load panels from a low level and use a hand crank or battery to lift and move panels, thus preventing MSDs (Da Costa & Vieira 2009; Hoogendorn et al. 2000; Kuiper et al 1999; Latza 2000; Marras 2000).
Safety and health experts believe drywall lifts will help to reduce overhead work because sheetrock can be placed mechanically rather than by lifting. Minimizing the need to reach higher than shoulder level during drywall installation can prevent MSDs caused by overhead work (Da Costa & Vieira 2009; Palmer et al. 2001; Svendsen 2004; Van der Windt et al. 2000).
TelPro states that “Panellift® Drywall Lifter is ergonomically designed to save your back.”
Effects on Productivity:
A drywall lift may increase productivity by decreasing the number of workers required for drywall installation tasks and by reducing worker fatigue.
There are many drywall lift styles available. However, not all are able to position drywall at higher heights or on ceilings. Additionally, not all models allow workers to load the drywall onto the lift at low heights.
Working with heavy objects overhead poses a safety risk to workers. Review the operator’s manual before use to ensure safe handling.
Drywall lifts require assembly. See operator’s manual for proper and safe assembly.
Panels must be loaded and unloaded onto the drywall lift correctly to ensure that they do not fall off. Review the operator's manual before use to ensure proper loading and unloading.
Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC; and Elizabeth Seidl SPT – Eastern Washington University
NIOSH Workplace Solutions Sheet
The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a series of “Workplace Solutions”, which are easy-to-understand recommendations from NIOSH research results. Related to this Construction Solution, please find more information on: Preventing Injuries from Installing Drywall
Return on Investment
“Click to Begin", then “Load an Example” and select "Installing 8'x12' Drywall Ceiling Panels Using an 'Assistive' Tool" or "Installing 8'x12' Drywall Ceiling Panels Using an 'Assistive' Tool".