A Guide to Safely Moving Machinery and Heavy Equipment

Transporting heavy equipment is hazardous, so we prioritise safety at every stage. In this guide, we share the key points of safety that all rigging workers follow. We use modern rigging equipment to speed up the process and work efficiently. It is important to us to pay close attention to the requirements of the machine itself, the space and the company.

To choose the right heavy tools and machinery for the job, be mindful of the following factors.

  • Heavy equipment specifications: Load capacity, power requirements, operational capabilities.
  • Area specifications: Space constraints, environmental conditions
  • Obstacles you may encounter: Uneven terrain or limited access points

Planning & Inspection

The best way to maintain high standards of safety when moving machinery is to have a clear and comprehensive plan. Every aspect is assessed for potential hazards so that we can resolve them or create awareness among the team.

A good rigging company will involve the following in their planning:

  • Site visits to examine and assess the machine’s condition, access and the space it is in.
  • Equipment types to ensure the right tools for the job are used, and that they are in working condition.
  • Itinerary to describe how the transportation and installation in the new location will take place

Using the Right Equipment

Working with heavy machinery over 25 tons requires specialised equipment that can manage these kinds of weights. Using the wrong equipment risks dropping and damaging the machinery or injuring workers.

Our goal as riggers is to move machinery safely, so we use the right heavy-duty tools for each job.

Versa-Lift Industrial Forklift

The Versa-Lift is a unique, heavy-duty forklift which is specifically designed for riggers moving heavy machinery. A great feature of these forklift trucks is that the lifting frame extends, which allows us to lift greater capacities than standard. The mast uses hydraulics rather than chains for more reliable lifting up to 60 tons. Using two Versa-Lift forklifts together, as in the video below, provides a simple way to lift heavy machinery.

(Versa-Lift 40/60 in action removing a section of an old furnace)

Toe Jacks

These tools are commonly used for lifting and lowering machines to allow machine skates to roll underneath. They are heavy-duty hydraulic jacks that can work at various angles. The “toe” of the jack enters at a low clearance, ideal for lifting machinery close to the floor.

Using jacks allows us to raise the machinery with minimal effort while keeping it steady and secure. The jacks lock at the desired height, giving us full control over raising and lowering.

Machine Skates

Machine skates allow us to move heavy equipment quickly across flat and smooth surfaces. They consist of a flat base and rollers that reduce friction. Some of our skates can lift loads of up to 70 tons.

While skates cannot jack up heavy loads from the ground or lift anything into position, we use other tools, such as forklifts, toe-jacks and telehandlers, to raise items before positioning the skates underneath. We can then push the skates to the desired location and use similar tools to lift the load and remove the skates.

(Using Machine Skates to move a 20-ton machine into place.)

Hand Pallet Trucks

A hand-operated pallet truck works much like machine skates, but for smaller loads (~5 tons). The handle works as a jack lever to raise the forks using the hydraulic control. This is ideal for quickly moving packed parts and accessories without strain or risk of injury.

Operator Training

All those involved with moving machinery will have the correct training on proper procedures for each piece of equipment. They should also know about the machinery they are working on.

At FPA, we conduct staff training by independent organisations for compliance with current legislation and regulations. All staff hold LANTRA skills cards, as well as the basic training for:

  • Heavy-duty fork truck (A16)
  • Mobile crane supervisor (A62)
  • Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) IPAF Trained 3A & 3B
  • HIAB or lorry-mounted crane (A36)
  • Versa-Lift Trucks
  • Slinger / Signaller (A40)
  • (A73) Vehicle/Plant Banksman
  • Working at Height
  • First Aid
  • Fall arrest equipment
  • Safety awareness
  • Environmental awareness
  • Asbestos awareness
  • For a full list visit our accreditations and training page.


During dismantling, only those involved in the removal should be allowed in the area. This minimises risk as any excess personnel may not be aware of the steps taking place or associated hazards.

  1. Follow the manufacturers’ guidelines for disassembly. Even with our wealth of experience, guessing the process when unfamiliar with the model is too risky. The manufacturer always communicates the best way to dismantle industrial machinery safely, so it’s best to follow this guidance.
  2. Disconnect communication lines. Firstly from electricity, followed by any hydraulics or pneumatic connections.
  3. Remove and pack any detachable parts or accessories. Pack fragile or delicate components with plenty of packing to avoid breakages.
  4. If the main body of the machine can be broken down further, separate the sections and remove them separately. This ensures they don’t come apart during lifting.

Transport & Relocation

Risks when moving large items within the facility include:

  • Equipment Failure
  • Speed of movement
  • Other people

Using Equipment Safely

Before using the equipment, engage the brakes and check:

  • For cracks or damage in tyres or casters
  • That the wheels are lubricated and clean
  • Levels of hydraulic fluid and/or engine oil
  • Any hoses, booms or other components for cracks or damage
  • All attachments are locked firmly in place


  • After lifting the load with jacks, place the skates in a position which will support the load fully.
  • The load should be distributed evenly across the skates and sit stably. Never exceed the maximum load of the skates.
  • Ensure the floor is clear of any debris that could impede the movement of the skates.
  • Do not put feet or hands under the load once it is on the skates.
  • Only use the handle to lift loaded skates

When moving machine skates, it is important to only move at walking speed to avoid crashes or losing control of the load. Industrial machines are extremely heavy, so once they pick up momentum, it may be difficult to stop them without additional machinery.

If you are moving on a slope, ensure you have a way to control the speed of the load once it is moving. Ensure there is no risk of someone becoming trapped by the load.

In some cases, we use Power Pushers to assist with skates. This takes the strain off the operator pulling the skates.


Always wear a seatbelt when operating a forklift. If the equipment rolls or tips, the seatbelt keeps you in the seat.
Forklift accidents usually occur because of speed. While forklifts can move very quickly, operators should avoid rushing and keep speeds below 5mph.

Always go at a speed that suits the environment. This means going more slowly if:

  • There is rough terrain
  • There are many obstacles
  • There is heavy foot traffic
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times while operating the forklift truck.

Keep the Area Clear

Bystanders are risk factors in heavy rigging operations. It is important to have enough staff as spotters to cover all blind spots and a way for them to communicate.

  • Use hand signals as well as a radio to communicate and clear blind spots
  • Erect clearly marked barrier to keep people away from the operating equipment
  • Develop a plan to limit the need for vehicles to reverse.

Safety First!

Rigging is a dangerous job, but with our experience and training, we feel confident that we can handle any situation. We always assess the requirements and make a thorough plan, including safety measures, to protect our workers, the machines we move, and our clients’ staff.

Our Health and Safety Policy Statement sets out safety as a core value of our company. We believe in the active participation of every company member in promoting and achieving high standards of accident prevention.

We work with specialist lifting equipment to relocate machinery safely. In every industry, factory plant machinery requires professional care to move without damage or injury. Contact Factory Plant Associates today to enquire about our services and we’ll be happy to help.

Looking to discuss your requirements?

Call us on 0121 544 4774 or simply click ‘Get in Touch’ to use our online form!

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