Introduction to crane hire or contract lift differences

So you want to know the differences between crane hire and contract lifts? You have come to the right place. Don't be confused by the terms crane hire and contract lift - both involve using a crane and executing lifting operations utilising a safe working method. The differences simply lie in who is responsible for different elements of each service - such as insurances, planning the lift and executing the lifting operation. Before we continue, if you want a crane hire quote or a contract lifting quote, feel free to use our website live chat or get in touch with us.

How is this crane hire vs contract lift guide broken down?

To keep things as simple as possible, this guide first outlines the difference between the two services available - a crane hire and a contract lift. Depending on the service you need, the crane hire costs can vary greatly. The following section summarises the different types of cranes available and briefly explains the factors that influence the size of crane you will need for your job - both the type and size of crane have a large bearing on the crane hire cost. Finally, this crane hire cost guide will summarise these factors and let you know what information you should pass onto crane hire firms to make sure you get a crane hire quote tailored to your needs.

Contents For This Guide

  1. Introduction to crane hire or contract lift differences
  2. Summary of differences between crane hire and contract lifts
  3. An in depth look at the differences between crane hire and contract lifts
  4. Should I ask for crane hire or contract lift and what will it cost?

If you don't have time to read this guide and just want to get a crane hire price, use our live chat or contact us and we will give you an indication of prices straight away.

Summary of differences between crane hire and contract lifts

Before we dive in and explain the differences, it is easier to summarise them in a table. The table below gives you a quick idea of the differences between crane hire and contract lifts and is a good starting point when it comes to wrapping your head around all of this.

FactorCrane HireContract Lift
Is a crane with operator supplied?YesYes
Who is responsible for selecting a suitable crane?CustomerCrane Firm
Who plans the lift?Customer's AP*Crane Firm's AP*
Who arranges slinging and signalling duties?CustomerCrane Firm
Who is responsible for supervising the lift?CustomerCrane Firm
Who is responsible for all loss or damage to the crane?CustomerCrane Firm
Who takes on legal liability in the event of injury or damage?CustomerCrane Firm
Who is responsible for insuring the plant and goods under hook?CustomerCrane Firm
* AP (Appointed Person) is a person qualified to plan lifting operations.

Is it really that simple?

The table above really does outline the main differences between crane hire and contract lifts. Essentially, if you do not have a qualified Appointed Person, the relevant insurances, and the other capabilities outlined in the above table, then you are going to need a contract lift. If you think you are capable of carrying out this side of the service yourself then you may want to consider a CPA* crane hire instead. The benefit to this is the upfront cost is less, but the reality is it can be just as expensive because you will still need to plan the lift and fulfil the other requirements of the CPA terms and conditions for crane hire.

Take a look at our crane hire terms and conditions or our contract lift terms and conditions.

Definition* CPA stands for Construction Plant-hire Association - the CPA represents the interests of over 1,600 plant hire firms in the UK and has been in existence since 1941. CPA crane hire means you are hiring a crane under the CPA conditions which have become the standard hire conditions within the plant-hire industry, outlining the obligations of both the Owner of the Plant and the Hirer (Customer).

An in depth look at the differences between crane hire and contract lifts

Now that you have a basic understanding of the differences between crane hire and contract lifts, lets delve deeper into some of the main points you will need to consider when deciding whether you require a crane hire or contract lift service. The following sections will outline the differences regarding what is included in each service, pricing, planning and other responsibilities.

What is included in a crane hire or contract lift?

  • Crane Hire - you, the customer, hire the crane and operator to work to your instructions where you will plan the lift, select a suitable crane, organise the slinging and signalling arrangements, supervise the lift and be responsible for the lifting operation. The lifting operation is contractually the customer's responsibility in the event of injury or damage.
  • Contract Lift - the crane firm will plan the lift, select a suitable crane, organise the slinging and signalling arrangements, supervise the lift and be responsible for the lifting operation. The crane firm will have suitable insurances in place and bear the burden of responsibility regarding damage or injury on site.

Unlike a standard crane hire, with a contract lift the burden of responsibility for the planning of the lift shifts to the crane firm. This includes the preparation of a lift plan which involves selecting an appropriate crane and planning the method involved. With a contract lift, the crane firm also provide a lift supervisor to supervise the lift and ensure that the lifting operations are executed in accordance with the lift plan prepared by the Appointed Person. The crane firm also arrange slinging and signalling duties and ensure that the relevant insurances are in place (including insurance for the plant and the goods being lifted).

What costs more - a crane hire or contract lift?

The upfront cost for a contract lift is going to be more than a standard crane hire. This is quite obvious when you consider that the burden or responsibility is mainly on the crane firm and there is much less risk (both financially and legally) for the customer when they select a contract lift. However, this does not necessarily mean that a contract lift is not the cheaper option in the grand scheme of things.

Unless you employ an Appointed Person to carry out the planning of lifting activities, it is unlikely you are going to be able to even chose a contract lift because you will not have the ability to safely plan the lifting operation. If you do not use cranes regularly enough to justify employing an Appointed Person, then it is actually cheaper to choose a contract lift when you consider the costs of employing such a person over the course of a year spread out over the costs of your crane hire activities.

Likewise, if you do not hire in plant regularly you will probably need to pay relatively high costs for Hired in Plant Insurance. For crane firms, this is often cheaper because they pay for this on an annual basis and as a fixed cost it is spread out over many jobs (thus benefiting from economies of scale that can be passed onto the customer). For customer's hiring in plant for only a few days in the year, the prices can be astronomical - especially considering the value of some types of cranes. There are also other insurances to consider such as Goods Under Hook Insurance which insures against loss or damage to goods whilst they are being lifted.

Although the cheaper upfront cost of crane hire may seem appealing at first, in addition to the above, you will also need to pay for a lift supervisor to supervise the lifting activities and a slinger signaller to perform slinging and signalling duties. These costs are included in the upfront cost of a contract lift and it is often therefore more economical to opt for a contract lift service even if you think you might have the capabilities to go for the CPA crane hire option.

Who plans the lift for a crane hire or contract lift?

Do you have a qualified Appointed Person to plan the lift for you? If no, then you will need a contract lift. The Appointed Person will first conduct a site visit to assess the site conditions and lifting requirements. He or she will then prepare RAMS (risk assessment and method statement) which will assess the risks involved in this specific lifting operation and a thorough method of lifting. These are lengthy documents that detail various aspects of the lift including the crane required, the tackle required, the ground conditions, the labour and PPE required, the method to be utilised, the sequence of known lifts, the cranes position and more.

What other responsibilities are involved in either a crane hire or contract lift?

In addition to everything outlined so far in this crane hire or contract lift guide, there are a few more differences to outline. Unlike a CPA crane hire, when opting for a contract lift, the burden of responsibility regarding any damage or injuries that may occur during the lifting operations shifts from the customer to the hire provider. If you do opt for a contract lift, you still need to provide accurate information relating to both the items to be lifted and the ground conditions.

Our guide to the different types of cranes is coming soon.

Read our full guide to help estimate what size crane you need.

Important NoteWho is responsible for selecting the crane size and type?

  • Crane hire service - customer's responsibility.
  • Contract lift service - crane firm's responsibility.

Should I ask for crane hire or contract lift and what will it cost?

When deciding whether you need a contract lift or crane hire, consider the following questions:

  • Will you be able to make sure the lift is properly planned by an Appointed Person?
  • Will you be able to provide a lift supervisor to supervise the lift?
  • Is a suitable crane going to be selected by yourself and will you prepare a written lift plan and risk assessment?
  • Can you confirm that the written lifting plan will be given to and discussed with the crane operator before the lifting commences?
  • Are the relevant insurances going to be supplied by yourself for the hired in plant and goods under hook?

If you answered no to any of the questions above, you are going to need a contract lift instead of a crane hire. If you are still unsure, ask us any questions using our website live chat or get in touch with us by email or phone.

What will a crane hire or contract lift cost?

The cost of both crane hire and a contract lift is almost impossible to set in stone because there are so many types and sizes of cranes and each of these has different potential configurations. We have written another guide to crane hire costs for you to find out more about what influences the crane hire cost. If you want to get a quick quote for either a crane hire or contract lift, don't hesitate to chat our website live chat or get in touch with us.

Read our full guide to learn how much crane hire costs.

Important NoteIf you choose a crane hire, even if a representative from the crane hire company visits the site to
gather information for the rigging of the crane or to help you in the selection of the crane, then this should not be interpreted as taking responsibility for planning the overall lifting operation.