Duct Lift

A duct lift is a lifting device used to raise duct systems to the desired level for installation.


A duct lift is an engineering control that helps reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) from manual material handling, stooped postures and overhead work.  It is a device used to raise duct systems to the desired level for installation.  The lift is made up of a supportive base, lifting power source, vertical beam, lifting forks or loading platforms.

Material lifts are used by many construction professionals to lift materials up to the desired workspace height.  Lifts are available in varying height and weight capacities to accommodate specific construction needs (figure 1). The components of a lift include a supportive base, lifting power source, vertical beam, and lifting forks or load platforms.

Figure 1. The Genie® Superlift Contractor® SLC™-12 lift is well suited for construction work, industrial applications and HVAC installations. (Photo courtesy of Terex Corporation)

Sheet metal and HVAC workers must work overhead when installing duct systems.  Using duct lifts allows materials to be raised to the desired workspace without placing stress on the body.  The lift supports the weight of the duct and other materials.

Material lifts have versatile applications.  With the proper lift and lift accessories, materials such as metal, ventilation ducts, drywall, and electrical fixtures can be lifted to desired work heights. Many types of duct lifts and other material lifts are available.  Depending on the requirements of the job, lifts can raise materials weighing up to 1000 pounds from 5 – 26 feet.
Manual, electric, pneumatic, and hydraulic lifts are available.  Manual hand cranks are available on lifts with low weight capabilities.  Electric winches with automatic chargers or compressed air lifts facilitate faster lifting of materials while decreasing stress on the lift operator. 
Lifts are designed for easy transport and set-up.  Transport and set-up can often be accomplished by one person. Most lifts have casters and are able to roll over uneven surfaces.  Many lifts also have the ability to fold or compress for ease of transport. 
Many accessories are available to customize a lift for a specific job.  Different base designs, including straddle bases and counterweight bases, allow lifts to straddle objects and get closer to the load destination.  A variety of loading platforms provide support and cradling of odd shaped materials.

Risks Addressed:

Heavy lifting and carrying and stooped postures 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 duct lift can help reduce lifting and carrying and stooped postures by decreasing the need for workers to manually lift materials in stooped postures or overhead.

How Risks are Reduced:

Using material lifts decreases the need for workers to manually lift materials, in both stooped postures and overhead. There are several ways material lifts reduce risk of musculoskeletal disorders. The risk for low back injuries is reduced since materials do not have to be lifted off the floor or carried long distances. Additionally, lifts have wheels and have the capability to pick up materials with adjustable lifting forks. Shoulder injury risk is reduced since lifts raise materials and eliminate the need for overhead lifting.
Although there are no independent studies on duct lifts, health and safety experts have shown that workers who perform repeated activities above shoulder level are at greater risk of sustaining shoulder musculoskeletal disorders.  Studies have also shown that workers who spend more time in stooped posture or other awkward back postures are at a higher risk for developing low back problems.
Manufacturers and safe and health experts report a risk reduction by decreasing manual contact with building materials and decreasing the need for manual lifting, in both stooped postures and overhead.

Effects on Productivity:

Material lifts increase productivity by decreasing the number of workers necessary to lift materials.


Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC and Cassie Malecha, DPT – Eastern Washington University


Sumner Manufacturing Company Series 2100
To obtain information, visit http://www.sumner.com/ or contact 1-281-999-6900 customerservice@sumner.com

Genie Super Hoist
To obtain information, visit http://www.genielift.com or contact 1-800-536-1800 http://www.genielift.com/en/about-genie/contact-us-feedback/index.htm

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.