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How to Enhance the Safety of a Magnet Lift Operation

Workers operating a magnet lifting device.

Lifting magnets have gained a lot of popularity in the past two decades due to the many applications they can be used for. New models are more powerful, with much higher load capacities of up to 10,000 lbs., making it imperative for the operators and managers to adhere to all safety protocols when operating these systems. Even a minor operating error can lead to severe and even fatal accidents.

To maximize workers’ safety, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has provided businesses with several safety guidelines and codes that must be followed when operating powerful lifting magnets.

Here are some factors that managers and operators must consider for safer lifting magnet operations. These guidelines are provided in section B.30.20-4 of the ASME code.


Ensure that only steel objects and materials are lifted using a magnet lifting device. Alloys have weaker magnetic properties than steel because of higher carbon content. Lifting alloy objects may increase the risk of a dropped load.


Be sure that the object being lifted has a flat surface, without any bows, folds, and waves, for enhanced grip. Check if there's loose wood or matting between metal pieces that could weaken the magnet's hold of the load. Use a long straight edge to measure the flatness of the material's surface.

Condition of Material’s Surface

Ensure that the surface of the object to be lifted is clean, without any elements of dirt, dust, rust, oil, ice, paint, snow, or other debris. A cleaner surface will be in full contact with the material’s surface, eliminating the chances of a falling load. The elements mentioned above can reduce the lifting capacity of magnets.

Material Weight

A thick sheet of steel ready to be lifted by a magnet lifting device.

Check the weight of the object before lifting it. You can calculate the material's total weight by using this formula: length in inches x width in inches x thickness in inches x material's standard weight per cubic inch. For instance, you will replace the standard weight per cubic inch with 0.283 lbs. in the case of steel.

Material Thickness

Lifting thinner objects is more complicated than lifting thicker ones. They typically fail to accept all the force exerted by the magnet, reducing its lifting capacity.

Material Temperature

While temperature modifications may be allowed for some magnets, it’s best to stick to the maximum recommended temperatures for the purposes of safety.

  • Ceramic permanent lifting magnets can lift materials with a temperature of up to 200 degrees F.

  • Electromagnets can lift materials with a temperature of up to 600 degrees F.

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