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News - 2021

Picking The Perfect Forklift Drum Handling Attachment


Tips for choosing the best and most suitable drum handling attachment for your needs

Want to know how to increase the drum handling capabilities of your forklift without costing the earth? A forklift attachment is a safe and cost-efficient way of transforming your truck into a piece of equipment specifically designed to handle and move drums.

But with so many different drum handlers available on the market, varying in designs, models, and capabilities, it can be difficult to make the right choice. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Here, we’ve shared our top tips to help you determine the most suitable type of forklift drum handler based on your needs.


TIP 1 - Understand the type of drum you want to move   

So many different types of drums are in circulation, from steel and plastic, to fibre and cardboard, so understanding the type of drums you need to handle will help determine the most suitable forklift drum handling attachment for you. For example, some drum handler attachments are designed to only be used for specific drums - pick thw wrong one, and the drum you handle may risk being dropped, damaged or crushed 

drum types

As well as being made from different materials, drums can also vary in shape and features. Some steel drums have ‘rolling hoops’ around the outside, making them more suitable for certain types of forklift drum grabs which utilise these hoops as a way of gripping and taking hold. Other steel drums may not have this feature, rendering this particular type of forklift drum lifter unsuitable. 

Mauser ‘Egg-Shaped’ drums is another example of how they can vary in shape. These particular drums have a taper at the top and bottom (hence the name 'Egg-Shaped'), which in turn makes them only suitable for use with a dedicated ‘Mauser’ drum handling attachment.

Takeaway: Identify what type of drum you want to use — what it’s made from, the shape, and any specific features.


TIP 2 - Assess the Various Drum Handling Designs on the Market

Although they may look like they will carry out the same drum handling task, not all drum lifting attachments are made the same way, so there may be differences that aren’t so obvious on first look. For example, a forklift drum grabber which is designed to lift the drum around the waist will be designed differently than one that grabs at the lip of the drum.

Both of these forklift drum handlers will lift the desired drum, but a drum handler which grabs from the lip would prove the better option if you were handling drums that are tightly packed together (i.e. on pallets).

Other variations include drum tongs which are designed to lift drums vertically, and drum rotators that can rotate a drum sideways. There are many different designs of forklift drum handling attachments on the market, so make sure you assess which design would best suit your particular drum handling application.

Here’s a list of some of the drum handling equipment that is on the market today along with a brief explanation about each type ;

Drum Grabs and Drum Grippers

forklift drum grab

One of the most common types of drum lifting equipment on the market, these drum grabbers grip the drum either around the waist or under the lip, and are best suited to lift and transport drums from one place to another.

Drum Manipulators

drum manipulator

This is the perfect choice for when a drum needs to be manipulated in terms of its position — taking it from lying horizontally to making it stand vertically (or vice versa). A task such as this would be needed if you were shelving or stacking drums, where their position would need to be changed. Using a design incorporating either three or four prongs, these forklift drum attachments allow heavy drums to be manipulated without the need for manual handling — reducing risk of injury or accident.

Vertical Drum Tongs

drum tongs

Drums often need to be lifted directly upwards in the vertical plane, which is where the use of vertical drum tongs come into play. By either using an overhead crane to hook it, or a yoke which is fitted to forklift forks, these drum tongs are lowered onto the drums from above and are then manually or automatically locked into position underneath the lip of the drum.  

Drum Rotators

drum rotator

When drums are filled with liquid or waste, and need to be decanted for emptying, a forklift drum rotator is the model of choice. Utilising a mechanical gearbox that is connected to either a crank-handled or loop chain, the drums can be smoothly and easily rotated 360 degrees, providing effortless and controlled tipping. Hydraulic options and crane slung options are also available based on your specific needs.

Drum Dumpers (or Drum Tippers)

When drums need to be emptied quickly into rubbish skips or waste collection hoppers, a drum dumper (or drum tipper) is an effective solution. By using a pull cord assembly, these drum dumpers can pick them up from alongside machines, transported to the scrap skip, and dumped — all without the need for manual handling (again, reducing the risk of injury or accident).

Takeaway: Think about how you intend to handle your drum, how they need to be positioned, and how they will be packed.


TIP 3 - Can Your Forklift Drum Lifting Attachment Accommodate the Different Drum Sizes?

hydraulic forklift drum grab

Some forklift drum lifting attachments on the market are designed for a specific size of drum, whilst others have more flexibility. It’s important to understand the different sizes of drums that you need to handle to ensure it’s fit for purpose. 

For example, if you’re handling a wide range of drums then the preferred forklift drum handler may be one with hydraulic jaws which can be easily adjusted to accommodate the varying drum diameters.

Using one that’s not tailored to the size of drums you’re handling could lead to drum slippage — increasing the risk of possible injury to personnel and products.

Takeaway: Understand the tolerances that your drum lifter can offer to make sure it can handle the diameter you need.


TIP 4 - Properly Assess the Drum Handling Attachment’s Weight Capability

Of course making sure that your drum handler is suited for the size of your drum is important, but have you ever thought about making sure it can handle the weight? A drum filled with a product that has a high mass-to-volume ratio (such as powders and fluids) can weigh a lot more than the same as a drum filled with waste rubbish.

Consider your drum handler’s capability when it comes to weight, and that you pick one that has sufficient capabilities (you should find the SWL of the drum handler clearly stated on the attachment).

Many drum handling attachments on the market are not designed for high lifting capacities, so it’s important to know when a more heavy duty model may be required.

Takeaway: Know the laden weight of your drums, and pick a model of drum handler which has sufficient capacity to handle it safely and efficiently


TIP 5 - Consider What Your Forklift Can Handle

Alongside checking the weight capacity of your forklift drum handling attachment, you also need to think about what your forklift can handle. Your forklift’s ‘derated’ capacity needs to be sufficient once the weight of the actual attachment, plus the weight of the drum, is being handled.

A forklift’s ‘derated’ capacity can be calculated using many factors, including (but not limited to) its ‘load centre’ or dimensions of the load, weight of the load, and weight of the forklift attachment. It’s important to know exactly what it can handle and if it can lift to the height required with the drum and attachment in place.

Takeaway: Consult with your forklift supplier or dealer to make sure if your forklift  has sufficient capacity, taking into account the weight of your drum handler and the weight of the laden drum.


TIP 6 - Other Things to Consider — Terrain, ATEX, and Drum Storage


Consider the terrain you’ll be operating on — for example, are you transporting drums over bumpy ground or having to manoeuvre your forklift up and down steep inclines? Rough terrain can potentially cause the drum to bounce out of the jaws of the drum handler, especially if they’re empty, so ask your material handling equipment provider about which type would be most suitable.


ATEX drum handler

Is the drum located in a potentially hazardous or explosive environment? If so, you need to check that your forklift drum handler will not cause an explosion during operation. In this instance, your drum handler must be ATEX certified (as required by the EU directive 94/9EC, more commonly known as the ATEX directive)

Drum Storage

You may need a specific type of drum handling attachment based on how you store your drums. If you need to lift and place them into racking, then a type of drum handler, such as a Forklift Drum Manipulator, would be better suited than a Forklift Drum Tipper, even though they can both rotate a drum into a horizontal position. If you store drums in containers or other spaces where they are packed tightly, a Drum Handler suitable for handling drums close together would be the preferred option.

Takeaway: Think about the way that you’ll use your drum handling attachment with your drums — will it be over rough or smooth terrain, used in a potentially hazardous environment, or are the drums handled and stored in a way that makes it more difficult to access them? Considering these will also ensure you pick the right (and safest) choice based on your needs.



With so many different models and types on the market, we hope that this short guide has helped to provide some clarity and given you food for thought about the things you need to consider before making your purchasing decision.

But, if you have any further questions or would like to speak to a member of our expert design, technical, or manufacturing team, please do contact us using the live chat, or call us on 01686 247091 

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