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Hoist and Winch Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Operates or tends hoists or winches to lift and pull loads using power-operated cable equipment.

This career is part of the Architecture and Construction cluster Maintenance/Operations pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Moves levers, pedals, and throttles to stop, start, and regulate speeds of hoist or winch drums in response to hand, bell, buzzer, telephone, loud-speaker, or whistle signals, or by observing dial indicators or cable marks.
  • Starts engines of hoists or winches and uses levers and pedals to wind or unwind cable on drums.
  • Observes equipment gauges and indicators and hand signals of other workers to verify load positions or depths.
  • Operates compressed air, diesel, electric, gasoline, or steam-driven hoists or winches to control movement of cableways, cages, derricks, draglines, loaders, railcars, or skips.
  • Moves or repositions hoists, winches, loads and materials, manually or using equipment and machines such as trucks, cars, and hand trucks.
  • Selects loads or materials according to weight and size specifications.
  • Signals and assists other workers loading or unloading materials.
  • Attaches, fastens, and disconnects cables or lines to loads, materials, and equipment, using hand tools.
  • Applies hand or foot brakes and moves levers to lock hoists or winches.
  • Oils winch drums so that cables will wind smoothly.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves keeping or regaining your balance more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time
  • Whole body vibrations, such as when operating a jackhammer
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time
  • Work at heights above 8 feet more than once a month on structures such as ladders, poles, scaffolding, and catwalks

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Bending, stretching, twisting, or reaching
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Crane Operator -- Operates cranes or draglines to lift, move, position or place machinery, equipment and other large objects at construction or industrial sites, ports, railway yards, surface mines and other similar locations.
  • Derrick Operator -- Operates electric-, diesel-, gasoline-, or steam-powered guy-derrick or stiff-leg derrick (mast supported by fixed legs or tripod), to move products, equipment, or materials to and from quarries, storage areas, and processes, or to load and unload trucks
  • Stevedore -- Transfers cargo between ship and shore, either mechanically or manually.
  • Air Lift Operator --
  • Cable Operator --
  • Cage Operator --
  • Rodman --