An aerial lift is any vehicle-mounted device used to elevate personnel. Types include:
- Extendable boom platforms,
- Aerial ladders,
- Articulating (jointed) boom platforms,
- Vertical towers, and
- Any combination of the above.
Aerial lifts have replaced ladders and scaffolding on many job sites due to their mobility and flexibility. They may be made of metal, fiberglass reinforced plastic, or other materials. They may be powered or manually operated, and are considered to be aerial lifts whether or not they can rotate around a primarily vertical axis.
Many workers are injured or killed on aerial lifts each year. OSHA provides the following information to help employers and workers recognize and avoid safety hazards they may encounter when they use aerial lifts.
Employers must comply with the following OSHA standards (29 CFR) to protect workers from hazards associated with aerial lifts.
- 1910.67 – Vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platforms
- 1910.333(c)(3) – Work Near Overhead Lines
- 1926.20(b) – Accident prevention responsibilities
- 1926.21 – Safety training and education
- 1926.453 – Aerial lifts
ANSI/SIA A92.2-1969, ANSI/SIA A92.3, ANSI/SIA A92.5, ANSI/SIA A92.6.
Employers need to assess the worksite to identify all possible hazards in order to select the appropriate equipment for the task. Employers who use aerial lifts need to evaluate and implement effective controls that address fall protection, stabilization and positioning. Only trained workers in general industry and authorized workers in construction may be allowed to use aerial lifts, and employers must make sure that those workers show that they can use an aerial lift properly. Safe aerial lift use includes properly maintaining the equipment, following the manufacturer’s instructions, providing workers training and needed PPE, and implementing safe work practices.
The following hazards, among others, can lead to personal injury or death:
- Fall from elevated level,
- Objects falling from lifts,
- Ejections from the lift platform,
- Structural failures (collapses),
- Electric shock (electrocutions),
- Entanglement hazards,
- Contact with objects, and
- Contact with ceilings and other overhead objects.
Only trained and authorized persons are allowed to operate an aerial lift. Training should include:
- Explanations of electrical, fall, struck-by and falling object hazards;
- Procedures for dealing with hazards;
- Recognizing and avoiding unsafe conditions in the work setting;
- Instructions for correct operation of the lift (including maximum intended load and load capacity);
- Demonstrations of the skills and knowledge needed to operate an aerial lift before operating it on the job;
- When and how to perform inspections; and
- Manufacturer’s requirements.
Workers should be retrained if any of the following conditions occur:
- An incident occurs during aerial lift use,
- Workplace hazards involving an aerial lift are discovered, or
- A different type of aerial lift is used.
Employers should also retrain workers who they observe operating an aerial lift improperly.
Prior to each work shift, conduct a pre-start inspection to verify that the equipment and all its components are in safe operating condition. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and include a check of:
- Proper fluid levels (oil, hydraulic, fuel and coolant);
- Leaks of fluids;
- Wheels and tires;
- Battery and charger;
- Lower-level controls;
- Horn, gauges, lights and backup alarms;
- Steering and brakes.
- Operating and emergency controls;
- Personal protective devices;
- Hydraulic, air, pneumatic, fuel and electrical systems;
- Fiberglass and other insulating components;
- Missing or unreadable placards, warnings, or operational, instructional and control markings;
- Mechanical fasteners and locking pins;
- Cable and wiring harnesses;
- Outriggers, stabilizers and other structures;
- Loose or missing parts;
- Guardrail systems.
Do not operate any aerial lift if any of these components are defective until it is repaired by a qualified person. Remove defective aerial lifts from service (tag out) until repairs are made.
Work Area Inspections
Employers must assure that work areas are inspected for hazards and take corrective actions to eliminate such hazards before and during operation of an aerial lift. Items to look for include:
- Drop-offs, holes, or unstable surfaces such as loose dirt;
- Inadequate ceiling heights;
- Slopes, ditches, or bumps;
- Debris and floor obstructions;
- Overhead electric power lines and communication cables;
- Other overhead obstructions;
- Other hazardous locations and atmospheres;
- High wind and other severe weather conditions, such as ice; and
- The presence of others in close proximity to the work.
Ensure that access gates or openings are closed.
- Stand firmly on the floor of the bucket or lift platform.
- Do not climb on or lean over guardrails or handrails.
- Do not use planks, ladders, or other devices as a working position.
- Use a body harness or a restraining belt with a lanyard attached to the boom or bucket.
- Do not belt-off to adjacent structures or poles while in the bucket.
- Do not exceed the load-capacity limits. Take the combined weight of the worker(s), tools and materials into account when calculating the load.
- Do not use the aerial lift as a crane or to hoist materials.
- Do not carry objects larger than the platform.
- Do not drive with the lift platform raised (unless the manufacturer’s instructions allow this).
- Do not operate lower level controls unless permission is obtained from the worker(s) in the lift (except in emergencies).
- Do not exceed vertical or horizontal reach limits.
- Do not operate an aerial lift in high winds above those recommended by the manufacturer.
- Do not override hydraulic, mechanical, or electrical safety devices.
- Be aware of overhead clearance and overhead objects, including ceilings.
- Do not position aerial lifts between overhead hazards if possible.
- Treat all overhead power lines and communication cables as energized, and stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away.
- Ensure that the power utility de-energizes power lines in the vicinity of the work.
Insulated aerial lifts offer protection from electric shock and electrocution by isolating you from electrical ground. However, an insulated aerial lift does not protect you if there is another path to ground (for instance, if you touch another wire).To maintain the effectiveness of the insulating device, do not drill holes in the bucket.
- Set outriggers on pads or on a level, solid surface if available.
- Set brakes when outriggers are used.
- Use wheel chocks on sloped surfaces when it is safe to do so.
- Set up work area warnings, such as cones and signs, when necessary to warn others.