High Standards: Improving Safety on Aerial Work Platforms

Accidents on aerial work platforms are preventable with proper training, equipment inspection, maintenance and basic safety measures.


Aerial work platforms like boom lifts, scissor lifts and push-around lifts can be a priceless resource on construction sites, making it easy to reach work areas that were previously only accessible using scaffolding or man buckets on cranes. Not only do they help save time, they also tend to be safer than other means of reaching high work areas, like ladders. But accidents still happen, and fatalities involving aerial work platforms are a major contributor to the number one cause of deaths on job sites - falls from heights.

According to data from the International Powered Access Federation, overturns and falls are the two leading causes of aerial work platform fatalities. There were 23 deaths from accidents involving this equipment just in the first half of 2014, with 11 involving mobile booms and 10 involving static booms. Electrocution, entrapment and mechanical failures also lead to deaths among people working on or near lifts.

Worksite safety isn't just about an absence of accidents; it's about a pro-active strategy incorporating training, awareness and proper safety protocol. Even if your company makes great progress on the quest for zero accidents, you can't just relax when your stats reach a certain number. Selecting the proper equipment, training your employees, doing hazard analyses for each job site and following recommended best practices are crucial steps to keeping workers safe.

Follow OSHA requirements & recommendations for aerial work platform safety

One of the biggest hazards of aerial work platforms is simply using the equipment improperly. That includes entering and exiting the platforms when they're extended, a common practice on job sites that goes directly against manufacturer recommendations. Always read the instructions that come with each piece of equipment and follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and safety recommendations for the use of aerial work platforms. Some of those include:

  • Training aerial lift workers in the operations and limitations of the equipment
  • Performing visual inspections and function tests of equipment before each shift
  • Checking for overhead obstructions
  • Using the equipment only on firm, level surfaces
  • Never modifying aerial lifts without written authorization of the manufacturer
  • Ensuring that all equipment is properly maintained
  • Never exceeding weight or load limits
  • Never driving aerial lifts with the lift extended, unless the equipment is made for that purpose
  • Always using body harnesses or safety belts with an attached lanyard

Check out this OSHA fact sheet on aerial lifts for more recommendations.

Stay up-to-date on proper employee training

In addition to OSHA training, United Rentals offers classroom training in aerial boom lift and scissor lift operator certification, recertification and familiarization. To learn more about the courses that are available, visit UnitedAcademy.UR.com or call 1-844-222-2345.

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