Basic Safety Precautions When Using an Aerial Lift

 

Aerial lifts are a real time-saver on jobsites; with a few basic safety precautions, they can continue to be

 

Aerial lifts look simple to use. You can move yourself and your tools exactly to the spot where you need to work, even if it’s more than 100’ in the air. If used properly, an aerial lift can help you reduce the risks of back, neck and shoulder injuries caused by working at or above shoulder level. 

But all lifts are different. The down lever on one can be the up lever on another model.

 

A problem can be catastrophic

Power lines, uneven ground and lack of training can make for gruesome headlines.
Workers are sometimes caught between the lift and an object like a steel joist. They are also thrown out of the bucket or man basket if the lift is struck by a large vehicle.

Major causes of death are:

  • Electrocution

  • Falls

  • Tip-overs

About 26 construction workers die each year from using aerial lifts (Michael McCann, Deaths from Aerial Lifts in Construction. CPWR, 2001)
 

Before you use the lift:

  • Get training. Your employer must make sure every lift operator is trained by a qualified person experienced with the model of aerial lift being used. Once trained, follow the manufacturers’ rules. 
  • Wear a full body harness. If your lift is struck by another vehicle, you can be thrown from the lift and killed. Using proper fall protection will keep you from a serious or fatal fall. You must use a suitable lanyard attached to an engineered anchor in the basket or on the boom, not a guardrail.
  • Check for overhead power lines .The most frequent cause of death to a worker in a lift is electrocution. Trees can hide power lines. Do a pre-job walk-thru to look for obstructions. Unless you are a qualified electrical worker, stay a minimum of 10’ away from all power lines.

 

A world of bad ideas …

  • Getting the job done quickly is no reason to take deadly shortcuts.

  • Stay away from these “quick fixes” to a problem:

  • Standing on guardrail

  • Overloading man lift

  • Placing a ladder or scaffold on the lift

  • Climbing out of the basket

 

Instead, follow these procedures:

  • Inspect the lift safety devices before using.

  • Make sure the base unit controls are working properly so that someone

  • on the ground can lower the lift if the operator is unable to work the controls.

  • Don’t modify the lift without the manufacturer’s permission.

  • Know the Safe Floor Load Capacity before driving onto the floor/slab

 

Download printable versions of this article in English and Spanish

—This article is from the Center for Construction Research and Training and is reprinted with permission. CPWR is the research, training, and service arm of the Building and Construction Trades Dept., AFL-CIO, and works to reduce or eliminate safety and health hazards construction workers face on the job. Production of this article was supported by Grant OH009762 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH. To find out more about construction hazards, call 301-578-8500

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Daniel Morrison
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