According to investigations of aerial lift safety conducted by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the main causes of aerial lift deaths are falls, electrocutions and collapses or tip overs. Regardless of the type of lift you are using, there are a few general guidelines you should always follow. The following aerial lift safety tips will help keep you and your employees safe when operating a lift on the job.
Hire, train and test aerial lift operators
First and foremost, employers need to ensure aerial lift operators are trained to follow proper safety procedures. Implementing training and safety demonstrations of lift operation can prevent unsafe habits from forming in your team. We have gathered a few aerial lift safety tips and information to help. However, you should always go over the specific operating instructions and safety procedures for your lift in the owner’s manual before use.
Types of Aerial Lifts
Before we go over our 8 aerial lift safety tips, it is important to note the different kinds of aerial lifts. While this guide covers the general safety guidelines, each type of lift has it’s own set of risks and dangers to be aware of. This is why thoroughly reading and understanding your manufacture’s owners manual is important. There are two common categories of aerial lifts:
1. Scissor Lifts
Scissor lifts have a platform that moves straight up and down. Around the work platform is a rail system to protect workers from falling. When these lifts are extended and stationary, they can serve a purpose similar to scaffolding. Due to this, scissor lifts have many of the same risks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have investigated injuries and fatalities as a result of using scissor lifts and found that the majority of them came down to preventable issues, such as stabilization, fall protection and positioning.
2. Boom Lift Safety
There are two different types of boom lifts: telescopic and articulated. Telescopic boom lifts extend horizontally and then up and down, while articulated boom lifts have joints in their extension. This gives the articulated lift more flexibility and reach.
Boom lifts pose more of a risk because they extend outward and upward, not just upward like a scissor life. Regardless of whether you’re in a telescopic or articulating boom lift, you should always wear your harness and securely fasten the lanyard to the platform as instructed in the manufacturer’s manual.
Aerial Lift Safety Tips
1. Inspect the Aerial Lift Prior to Use
The aerial lift should be inspected prior to use. Regardless of the type of aerial lift, there are a variety of cords, pulleys, cables and chains that work together to make the lift, lift. Visually inspect each part to ensure there are no loose or cracked pieces. Tires and casters should be checked for proper inflation and wear. Test lift controls on site before anyone gets on the platform or in the bucket. If any aspects look worn or the lift seems to be malfunctioning or damaged, do not use the lift.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Be sure to inspect the area before going up in the lift. Look for any power lines, uneven surfaces, other vehicles or people and any hazards that may impede you while in the lift. All power lines, wires and other conductors should be treated as live wires, even if they appear insulated or you know they are down. To be safe, keep a distance of at least ten feet between you and any power lines at all times. Avoid driving the lift while fully extended.
When scissor lifts are elevated, they are very tall and narrow, making them susceptible to tipping over if not stabilized or moved properly. Ensure the lift is on firm, stable, level ground. If you can’t use the lift on level ground, always use brakes and wheel chocks, especially on inclined surfaces.
3. Moving the Lift
When moving the boom lift around the job site, make sure you know whether it can be moved in an upright position. Some models may permit a certain level of movement with the lift in a partially extended position, but always consult the manufacturer’s owner manual first. If it is not meant to be in motion while extended, do not try to move it. Even if the lift is permitted to move while fully extended, avoid it if possible. Navigating around a job site with a lift fully extended puts the person in the work platform at risk of bumping into other equipment, structures or electrical wires. With or without someone in the bucket, you have an increased risk of an accident.
4. Follow Capacity Limits
Due to the nature of aerial lifts, tip overs and collapses are a common cause of injury and death. The manufacturer’s capacity limits should be strictly followed. In addition to the weight of people, it includes all tools and bucket liners, too. Take the time to calculate weigh before using the lift and ensure you are within the allowed capacity.
5. Do Not Use an Aerial Lift in Poorly Ventilated Areas
Aerial lifts can potentially create sparks which could ignite flammable substances. Vapors, fibers and dusts that may be in the atmosphere could pose a risk of ignition. It is something every aerial lift operator should be aware of; even if it is something they never have to deal with.
6. Avoid Windy Weather
Since aerial lifts are tall and slender in the elevated position, you want to avoid using it in windy conditions. It may seem like it would take a lot to push a person or scissor lift over, but a good gust of wind is enough. The user’s manual will give you a limit on wind speed, but it’s typically a maximum of 28 miles per hour. Always remember too that wind speeds can be greater at heights above ground level.
7. Never Climb or Sit on the Edge of the Work Platform
While the platform sizes may differ between a scissor lift and a boom lift, the rules are much the same. Never climb or sit on the edge of the platform or rails. If you are having trouble getting to an area that is out of reach, work with the lift operator to get into the position you need. Never attempt to reach the area by climbing on the edge of the platform.
8. Never Override Safety Features
Almost all aerial lifts come with some sort of safety features built in. Whether hydraulic, mechanical or electrical, overriding these safety features is not recommended under any circumstances. These features are put in place by the manufacturer for your safety and should not be overridden.
While aerial lifts can be an essential tool for power and window wash professionals, they pose a number of risks. These aerial lift safety tips are meant to make readers aware of these risk, but always read and understand how to operate your lift properly, including the safety guidelines that go with it. The best way to protect yourself and your employees is with proper training. For more ways to protect your business, just call us at 1-800-878-3808 today. We have worked exclusively with mobile cleaning contractors for 40 years and we can help get you the coverages that best fit your needs. Our exclusive policy was tailor made for the power wash industry, so call for your free quote or policy review today! What aerial lift safety tips do you have? Tell us in the comments below.