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How to Safely Use Aerial Lifts

Due to their mobility and flexibility, aerial lifts have replaced ladders and scaffolding on many job sites. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 26 construction deaths are attributed to aerial lifts each year in the United States. Making users aware of possible safety hazards and teaching them how to safely operate aerial lifts can help prevent injuries. 

Top Aerial Lift Hazards 

  • Falls from elevation
  • Tip-overs
  • Falling objects striking workers
  • Structural failures and collapses
  • Electrical shocks
  • Contact with ceilings and other overhead objects 

Work Zone Inspection Prior to Using an Aerial Lift

Prior to performing work, inspect the area for the following safety hazards: 

  • Drop offs, holes or uneven ground
  • Inadequate surface or support to withstand all load forces
  • Bumps or floor obstructions
  • Debris
  • Overhead obstructions and electrical conductors
  • Hazardous wind and weather conditions
  • Close proximity of other workers 

Aerial Lift Inspection 

Test lift controls at the beginning of each day and inspect the lift before each use for the following safety hazards: 

  • Cracked welds
  • Hydraulic leaks
  • Damaged control cables
  • Loose wire connections
  • Tire damage
  • Illegible control labels

Safe Work Practices When Using an Ariel Lift 

  • Ensure only properly trained workers are allowed to operate aerial lifts
  • Never move the equipment with workers in an elevated platform
  • Do not place any body part between overhead hazards and the rails of the basket (e.g., joists and beams)
  • Maintain a minimum clearance of at least 10 feet from overhead power lines
  • Use a body harness or restraint lanyard attached to an approved anchorage point to prevent ejection*
  • Use a required fall protection system to exit the basket onto another work surface (e.g., a retractable lanyard connected to a proper anchorage point on the surface you are accessing)
  • Do not tie off to the lift while working outside the basket
  • Always stand firmly on the floor of the basket or platform, not on the toe-kick or guardrails
  • Do not use a ladder or any other object in the basket of the lift to gain height
  • Set the brakes and use wheel chocks when on an incline
  • Use outriggers when provided
  • Do not exceed the load limits of the equipment—be sure to allow for the combined weight of the worker, tools and materials
  • Do not operate lifts in high winds above those recommended by the manufacturer or in hazardous weather conditions  

*Not required for scissor lifts (unless feet leave the platform or the owner's alternative fall protection plan requires it)

Aerial Lift Training 

Allow only trained and authorized workers to operate aerial lifts. These workers must also demonstrate the skills and knowledge needed to safely operate the lift. Make sure your training includes the following methods and topics: 

  • Hands-on training for employees that is supplemented by the specific user and operator manual information
  • Explanations of electrical, fall and falling object hazards
  • Recognition of and avoidance techniques for unsafe conditions in the work environment
  • Instructions for correct lift operations, including maximum load capacity
  • Guidelines on performing inspections

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