Moving Construction Materials to Upper Stories without an Elevator

It’s exceedingly common for construction crews to move materials, tools, and equipment to upper floors, both in new constructions and rehab projects. Between January and June 2017, for instance, the average number of floors in a U.S. residential home was 2.12. Meanwhile, the floor space in commercial buildings has grown by 70 percent since 1979, and much of that extra space is likely found on upper stories.

This leads to a question: What’s the safest way to transport construction materials to upper stories in the absence of a freight elevator?

Assuming all staff are adequately trained to follow OSHA and other safety standards (which we’ll get into shortly), there are really only three questions to consider when planning a route from ground-level to upper stories:

  • What kind of lifting equipment is available?
  • What kind of lifting containers or platforms are available?
  • Are they compatible?

That may sound simple, but you can’t get a bunch of tools safely to the 40th story with a forklift. Most high-rise construction sites will have cranes available, so the most versatile lifting platform will feature strong lifting eye bolts that were designed to bear heavy loads high into the air; these platforms should also have walls to prevent dropping materials.

Of course, a material cage that’s designed for lifting should also provide for easy horizontal transport, too. The Material Handling Cage  from BHS is a prime example; it features heavy duty casters, integrated fork pockets, single- or four-point lifting eyes, and an expanded steel cage to keep materials safely within the unit’s footprint.

OSHA Standards for Lifting Equipment

When choosing lifting equipment for construction and industrial projects, standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are a great place to start. Unfortunately, the Administration’s standards scatter rules about lifting equipment across multiple parts and subparts.

For instance, personnel lifts must follow the standards listed in Subpart F of Part 1910, titled “Powered Platforms, Manlifts, and Vehicle-Mounted Work Platforms.” Lifting equipment for materials alone may be covered by the following standards, depending on the lifting device.

Of course, in the construction industry, there’s a whole other Part of the OSHA standards, which takes precedence over the 1910 standards designed for “general industry.” The 1926 standards, set aside for the construction industry alone, address multiple lifting technologies in the construction industry, including:

Regardless of the type of lift construction workers have on hand, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s compatible with lifting boxes. That’s why a Material Handling Cage with fork pockets and casters creates the most versatile platform for lifting construction materials from the ground to upper stories on any construction or rehab project.


Commercial Building Factsheet.UMich. Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan, 2018. Web. 9 Oct. 2019.