When is a crane a crane?

The use of cranes for lifting is a reasonably well regulated industry with specific regulations and guidance in place e.g; Approved Code of Practice for Cranes (ACOP), Pressure Equipment, Cranes, and Passenger Ropeways (PECPR) Regulations, Design Standard AS 1418 etc. When a mobile plant is used for lifting it becomes a bit more grey. At what point should this mobile plant be considered to be a crane?

Paraphrasing the ACOP and the PECPR Regs, a crane is defined as a powered device:

  1. That can raise and lower a suspended load AND
  2. Is capable of moving the load both horizontally and vertically by movement of either the boom or the entire machine.

This is a bit ambiguous because if the powered device can move the load horizontally and vertically it can, by definition, raise and lower the load meaning definition 1 is superfluous. Using only definition 2 we could now say that a forklift, telehandler, order picker, tractor, excavator and wheeled loader are all cranes as they are powered and capable of moving a suspended load horizontally and vertically by a combination of movement of boom and the entire machine.

The one way to make sense of this is to compare these mobile plant to things that we definitely know are cranes such as derricks, hiabs, tower cranes, etc. These machines can all raise and lower the load by means of a hoist and position the load horizontally by slewing of the boom. These machines are also all designed as cranes and their primary function is lifting.

A sensible way to interpret this would be to consider plant that; lifts and repositions suspended loads by hoisting or slewing, and is permanently configured primarily for lifting, as cranes.


Not cranes:

  1. A Forklift/Telehandler with a removable attachment for lifting
  2. Excavator with a lifting eye


  1. Telehandler capable of slewing and permanently configured for lifting
  2. Excavator permanently configured for lifting

So what does this mean? Basically you should still think about the risk involved in what you are doing. Users of mobile plant configured for lifting should still follow the guideline in the ACOP for cranes and the ACOP for Load Lifting Rigging.