Common Safety Mistakes When Using an Aerial Lift

Whether you call it a boom lift or a cherry picker, sometimes it's all about being able to work at elevated levels without having to spend time erecting scaffolding. But too often that convenience comes at a price. Some 26 aerial lift-related deaths occur each year, all preventable if operators and riders take the necessary precautions.

Several common missteps fall under the category of flat-out ignoring the limitations of the equipment. Overloading the platform with too much weight or with an outsized object can cause a tipover or collapse, as can allowing workers to gather at the edge of a platform, operating in windy conditions or failing to stabilize the lift properly when parked.

Perhaps the most common mistake is parking or maneuvering a lift near power lines. Electrocution is one of the leading causes of death during lift operations. Operators should keep at least 10 feet from live overhead lines and ensure that workers on the lift wear the proper insulated or voltage-rated protective clothing.

Falls accounted for the second-largest number of aerial lift-related deaths (after electrocution) between 1992 and 1999, so not using fall protection equipment is another huge mistake. To prevent falls, OSHA requires the use of a body belt or harness secured by either a tether or lanyard, depending on whether using a fall restraint or fall arrest system.

The real key to aerial lift safety is to have an experienced, well-trained operator working the equipment. An aerial lift falls into the category of ”powered industrial truck,” and OSHA requires operators to undergo specialized training.

With aerial lifts, the right training and some basic prudence can take safety to the next level.


Kim Slowey is a writer who has been active in the construction industry for 25 years and is licensed as a certified general contractor in Florida. She received her BA in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of South Florida and has experience in both commercial and residential construction.