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What Is an Overhead Hoist?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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An overhead hoist is a device typically found in a manufacturing facility to raise and move heavy objects from one location to another. The control system can be wireless, attached to a long drop cable or in a control cabin attached to the hoist. The overhead hoist has an electric or air-powered motor driving a spool loaded with steel cable or heavy rope. Common placement of the overhead hoist is on a track in order to allow movement of the hoist to different work stations. Typically equipped with a large steel hook to tote objects, other options include a scissor clamp instead of a hook.

When an overhead hoist is used to move a large or heavy object across a work floor, a siren or horn is commonly blown to alert workers of the potential danger. On an overhead hoist used to move materials in a plant, the hoist is often fitted with a traction motor to assist in moving the hoist along the track. Smaller hoists can typically be manually pulled when lifting smaller objects on a track system. On the largest overhead hoist designs, an operator is commonly perched high above the floor and is actually controlling the movement of the hoist from a control cabin affixed to the hoist.

The typical operator of an overhead hoist is required to undergo specialized training in the operation of the hoist prior to actually working with materials. In some situations where the movement of materials is especially difficult or fragile, a new operator may be required to act as an intern for a period of time before being allowed to work without direct supervision. Understanding weight loads and balance points is critical to the safe operation of the hoist when lifting and moving large loads. In some applications, the hoist operator is not responsible for attaching the lifting hook or clamp to the object being moved. Specialized personnel are occasionally employed to hook the hoist to the objects being moved.

Maintenance on an overhead hoist is often limited to inspection of the cable and greasing the cable drum. Air-powered hoists may require maintenance intervals that are shorter than those of an electric hoist; however, this is often subject to the filters and water collection devices on the air lines feeding the hoist's motor. Minor fraying of the cable is typical with an overhead hoist, however, any major damage or kinking of the cable should be repaired by cutting and reattaching the hook or clamp to avoid a broken cable or dropped materials.

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