General Handling Recommendations

Power equipment is generally used to handle pipes greater than 8" in diameter. Power lifting equipment includes forklifts, cherry pickers, backhoes, front-end loaders and cranes. Excessive lengths, high weights or uneven site conditions can require the use of multiple pieces of lifting equipment. Only experienced operators should be allowed to utilize power equipment.
For lifting loose pipe off rail cars with side stakes, a minimum 15-foot lift is required. For lifting pipe off trucks with side rails, a minimum 11-foot lift is required.

The staging area (operating space) must be clear of workers and obstacles and must provide the operator with a clear line-of-sight. Mark off the staging area to alert other workers that lifting equipment is being used. Never exceed the rated lifting capacity of the equipment. All equipment specifically designed for lifting will be marked with a safe lifting capacity.


The use of forklift trucks necessitates observing a number of OSHA standards. The proper and safe use of forklifts is the responsibility of the operator. Special procedures for handling PE pipe are:

  • Check the forks for jagged edges or burrs. If the forks are marred, cover them with a suitable protective covering to prevent gouging of the pipe;
  • Use the forks in the widest possible position; Always lift from the center of the pipe at the center of the forks;
  • Always slowly enter the forks underneath the pipe; never jerk or ram them in; Tilt back the load only enough to stabilize the load; and
  • Operate as close to the ground as possible when moving pipe from one location to another, but do not allow the pipe to drag or scrape along the ground.
  • Using a Forklift for Unloading Pipe Bundles

    Front End Loaders

    When equipped with forks, front-end loaders can be operated as forklifts and the same procedures must be followed as indicated above. Typically, front-end loaders are used to lift and move large diameter pipe.

    Mobile Cranes

    When lifting pipe from overhead some additional requirements must be observed. Locate overhead obstructions such as wires and trees and keep a minimum 10-foot clearance at all times. Obstacles in the trench, meter pit or vault must also be avoided.
    Inspect rigging for damage. Never swing a load of pipe or fittings over workers or in areas that are used as pathways for traveling. Operate the crane at constant speed. Avoid jerking and sudden movements.


    Backhoes are often operated as cranes. The hook on the underside of the bucket is used to lift and transport pipe. The use of backhoes is common since they are almost always available on the job site. The same precautions used for cranes must be followed to ensure their safe operation.