SAFETY BY TOM O’CONNOR
To better understand these risks, let’s
look at some common scenarios that
result in aerial lift injuries and fatalities.
On boom lifts, roughly 50 percent of
falls involve the victim being ejected from
the bucket after being struck by vehicles,
cranes, crane loads or falling objects. Falls
also occur when the lift suddenly jerks.
A majority of the injuries and deaths
that occur on scissor lifts are linked to
the equipment tipping over or a victim
falling when he or she leaned too far over
guardrails. Other fatalities are attributed
to electrocutions involving overhead
The primary measure for addressing
such dangers is training in proper use
of aerial lifts and hazard recognition.
At a bare minimum, the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) requires a qualified person to
train aerial lift users on electrical, fall
and falling-object hazards; procedures
for dealing with hazards; how to operate
the lift correctly (including maximum
intended load and load capacity); and
any additional manufacturer requirements. Employers should supplement
training by ensuring operators read and
understand equipment manuals. Per the
American National Standards Institute
(ANSI) safety standards, when operators
have questions, an expert should explain
the manuals to them.
Next, employers must be sure the
equipment is safe. A prestart inspection is
required for all aerial lifts at each job site.
Employers must hold operators or other
qualified people responsible for checking operating and emergency controls,
safety devices (such as outriggers and
guardrails), personal fall-protection gear,
wheels and tires, and other machine components specified by the manufacturer.
During the inspection, they should look
for leaks in air, hydraulic fluid and fuel
lines, as well as loose or missing parts.
If an aerial platform does not operate properly or components of the
equipment are in need of repair, workers are not allowed to use it. A qualified
mechanic will need to make any necessary repairs. Equipment must be
de-energized and locked out/tagged out
before any maintenance or repairs can
be done. Aerial lifts typically must be
inspected every three months or after
150 hours of use, whichever comes first.
In addition to ensuring equipment
safety, the job site must be evaluated.
Aerial lifts should always be set up on a
level surface that won’t shift, so be aware
of and adhere to slope limits set by the
manufacturer. Additional site hazards to
identify and avoid include holes, drop-offs, bumps and overhead power lines.
When proper training has been provided, the equipment has been inspected
and approved, and the site is safe, work
can commence. While work is being conducted, follow safe operating practices.
This includes ensuring that lift platform
chains or doors are closed, adhering to
load-capacity limits, and prohibiting leaning over guardrails or riding on bumpers.
Some of these measures relate to fall
protection. It is noteworthy to mention
that both the OSHA aerial lift standard
1926.453 and the fall protection sec-
tion 1926.954(b)( 3)(iii)(A) of Subpart V
Electric Power Transmission and Distri-
bution standard indicate that a personal
fall-arrest or fall-restraint system must
be in place. However, this issue is com-
plicated. If a worker falls, he or she must
not be allowed to strike anything below.
But, use of the restraint device may not
allow the worker to function, and a per-
sonal fall-arrest system may not prevent
them from striking a structure below.
In recognition of this, current negotiations with OSHA propose that an
employer will not be cited if they use
fall-protection equipment that complies
with all other aspects of 1926, Subpart
M; the aerial lift truck is parked with
the brakes set and outriggers extended
as needed; and reasonable precautions
have been taken to address any ejection
hazards. Employers should consult their
local OSHA office about current regulations and any applicable interpretations
Workers must comply with minimum
approach distances to electrical lines and
manufacturer requirements. Driving
with the lift platform elevated should
be prohibited, and vertical or horizontal
reach limits or specified load-capacity of
the lift should never be exceeded. When
using an elevated scissor lift, avoid excessive pushing and pulling.
Hopefully, this information provides
a better understanding of aerial lift
safety and how to successfully mitigate
common hazards resulting in death and
injury on the job. For more information,
visit www.osha.gov or contact the manufacturer of the equipment that you are
using or intend to use.
You Lift Me Up
Aerial lift safety
ACCORDING TO THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, more than 25 people
are killed and many others are injured each year in accidents involving aerial lifts.
This includes scissor lifts and boom-supported lifts, such as bucket trucks and cherry
pickers. This equipment is indispensable to electricians, linemen and wiremen, but
it is important to be aware of the hazards associated with them.
O’CONNO R is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting,
training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training
videos and software for contractors. He has significant experience working with national
and international trade associations with an expertise in government affairs. Reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. P H