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Aerial Lifts Safety Tips and Guidelines

By: Cleveland Brothers
November 22, 2021

Aerial lift equipment is invaluable when working at heights in construction and maintenance work. These lifts often provide much safer and more efficient results than traditional tools, like ladders. Manufacturers’ guidelines and proper operator training are critical to the successful use of aerial lifts. To ensure that operators use aerial equipment correctly, supervisors should be aware of work instructions and safety procedures.

What Are Aerial Lifts?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an aerial lift is a vehicle mounted piece of equipment for elevating personnel. Lifts have different types of work platforms, such as cherry pickers, buckets or cages. Several examples of aerial lift categories include:

  • Extendable boom lifts.
  • Aerial ladders.
  • Articulating boom platforms.
  • Scissor lifts.
  • Telehandlers.

Aerial lifts have replaced most scaffolding and ladders due to their flexibility, mobility and added safety features. Lift construction can consist of fiberglass, metal, reinforced plastic and other materials. This equipment may operate manually or use electric or gas power.

Important Safety Tips for Using Aerial Lifts

In addition to OSHA requirements and the manufacturer’s guidelines, many companies develop their own set of standards for workers to follow while operating lifts, as environmental factors can vary from site to site. Here is an aerial lift safety checklist with 13 tips that companies and operators should consider:

  1. Complete certification and training: OSHA requires all operators to have certification before operating lift equipment. In addition to the certification process, OSHA directs employees to complete retraining after an accident occurs if they encounter new workplace hazards or operate a different type of equipment.
  2. Inspect all equipment before operation: Before each shift, an operator should thoroughly examine all equipment, including the vehicle and the lift itself. Vehicle items to inspect include wheels, lights, batteries, horns and alarms, in addition to all fuel, motor oil, coolant, hydraulic oil and other fluid levels.
  3. Check for work hazards: When working indoors, operators should inspect surroundings for potential dangers like bumps, low ceilings, unstable surfaces or slopes on the floor. When outdoors, operators should make a note of ditches, uneven ground and aerial obstructions.
  4. Consider the weather forecast: Adverse conditions can significantly impact the safe operation of an aerial lift.
  5. Never override machinery safety features: Operators should not override the manufacturer’s electrical, mechanical or hydraulic features. Careful tests and studies determine these limitations for the safety of the operator.
  6. Be aware of power lines: While working in proximity to power lines is often unavoidable, workers should take the utmost precaution. If possible, stay a minimum of 10 feet from all wires and cables. Workers should also treat lines as live wires, even if they appear to be down.
  7. Stay within height or weight limits: Manufacturers carefully determine lift height and weight maximums using compiled data from tests and studies. The primary reason for weight limits is to prevent tip-overs. Operators should consider the weight of the personnel, tools and other materials on the platform.
  8. Stand in the confines of the platform or bucket: Guardrails are the primary source of safety protection when working on an elevated platform. Sitting or climbing on the guardrail bars is dangerous, potentially causing vehicle instability and a tip-over. Similarly, workers should stay inside the bucket and use the boom for maneuverability.
  9. Use emergency brakes, wheel chocks and outriggers: Brakes and outriggers are essential for safely operating lifts. When working on a slope, wheel chocks provide another level of stability.
  10. Wear a harness or restraining belt: Workers should always wear harnesses and latch them to the bucket or platform to prepare for sudden movements or unexpected collisions.
  11. Only transport personnel: Manufacturers build lifts specifically to support personnel. If a worker uses a lift to transport heavy building materials or supplies to an elevated work area, the chances of an accident or tip-over increase. Operators should use a crane when transporting these types of materials.
  12. Keep the platform free of scaffolding: Besides increasing the risk of a fall, extra scaffolding on a platform could also lead to a tip-over.
  13. Clear the lift base of any workers: Keeping the lift’s base area clear is critical. Because of a boom’s range of motion and ability to extend, surrounding workers often have difficulty perceiving a lift’s potential movements. By staying clear, workers also protect themselves from objects potentially falling from the work area overhead.

Importance of Safety During Heavy Equipment Operation

Workers can significantly reduce accidents by following OSHA standards and the above safety tips. Several other measures employers can take to help promote safety among lift equipment and their employees include:

  • Proper planning: Develop specific routes and path sites for heavy equipment during transport and when on the job.
  • Maintenance: Ensure that all heavy equipment has undergone the necessary repairs and maintenance.
  • Visibility: Use proper lighting for visibility in late afternoon or at night.
  • Spotters: Encourage the use of spotters, who serve as an extra pair of eyes for drivers, when equipment is maneuvering around the job site.

While many construction workers consider safety precautions as common sense or second nature, employers can help reinforce these measures by conducting regular classes or workshops to remind operators of the potential risks.

Learn More About One Call Rentals Today

If you’re interested in learning more about aerial lifts or are in need of a rental, One Call Rentals is here to help. One Call Rentals offers a wide variety of rental equipment including aerial equipment, air tools, generators, pumps, heaters and more. For more information, call 866-551-4602 or contact us online to get started today.


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