Heavy Lifting with the High-Lift Jack

Heavy lifting takes tools, training, and critical thinking.  For this training tip, we are going to look at the basic mechanical high-lift jack.  Pretend for a few minutes that all of your pneumatic, hydraulic, and electric tools are broke.  I’m not saying go back to the Stone Age all the time, but some basic tools and skills may help you significantly when confronted with a challenging pin job.

High-lift jacks can be used for lifting, winching, and clamping in a variety of scenarios.  These jacks depending on the manufacturer have lifting capacities of around 4,000 pounds.  A common length for our purposes is the 48” jack.

A couple points to remember first:

  • Understand the mechanics of the jack prior to a heavy lift
  • Practice using the jack on lightweight objects first
  • Always have two hands on the handle when moving a load up or down
  • If you lift an inch, crib an inch

After some instruction on the mechanics of the jack and practice lifting a picnic table, these firefighters lifted a telephone pole out of the ground.  If you are wondering about the pole, it was used to practice the baseball swing with a halligan, but obviously needs replaced.  After gaining a good understanding of the mechanics and techniques involved with the high-lift jack they were ready for some real weight.  Be sure to watch the jack footing and keep the bar vertical with no lateral shifting. We used the front bumper of an old school bus to show the capabilities of two jacks working simultaneously.  The firefighters should work in unison as they lift or lower the load.  Having two hands on the handle is important when a heavy load is being lifted because if the locking mechanism is not latched the weight of the load could forcefully swing the handle causing injury or shift the load if not controlled.

The high-lift jack is a fast and simple tool that firefighters will become comfortable using with a little training.  This is another option that may be quicker in some situations were a person is pinned under a vehicle, heavy equipment, or large object.  Always remember to crib and anticipate what the load is going to do.  Lift enough to free the victim, and then get him/her out.  For more on using the high-lift jack check out School Bus Roll-Over Pinning .  Pass it on.