Some of us might be surprised to learn that every day in the U.S., at least one worker suffers an injury while using an aerial lift. And these injuries can be deadly – about 26 U.S. employees die every year from an injury suffered while operating an aerial lift.
(What types of injuries happen most often during aerial-lift operation?)
Studies have shown that falls and electrocutions are the injuries most often associated with aerial lifts.
The good news is that there are things we can do to reduce the chances of an injury related to the operation of an aerial lift.
One of the most critical safety steps is to inspect the device before using it. Every lift has three components: a base or chassis; a lift mechanism, such as a tower or a boom; and a platform, such as a bucket, a stand, or a cage. All three components should be examined.
The inspection should include a look at the steering axle, hoses and fittings, fluid levels, wheels and axles, the chassis, the controls, the boom, the platform, the gate, the railings, the emergency foot pedal, and the emergency release valves. Damaged lifts should be tagged out of service.
After inspecting the lift, ensure that it will be set up properly. For outdoor jobs, confirm that the work area doesn’t have drop-offs, holes, or unstable surfaces such as dirt. Also be aware of slopes, ditches and bumps. Because overhead power lines can be a significant hazard, don’t set up the lift unless the boom can be kept at least 10 feet away from overhead lines – always assume a power line is energized unless you have solid confirmation that it’s not.
And don’t set up an aerial lift when wind speeds exceed 25 miles per hour or in severe conditions such as snow, ice, or rain. Try to not position the lift on a surface with an incline that exceeds the manufacturer’s guidelines, which is typically 5º or less of slope.
For indoor work, make sure the floor is free of debris and obstructions. And confirm that the ceiling won’t be a hazard during the job.
The outriggers should be placed on pads or on a level, solid surface. Set the brakes whenever outriggers are used, and use wheel chocks on sloped surfaces. Be sure to put up cones and signs to mark off the work zone and to keep everyone safely away from the device.
Before climbing onto the platform, put on a safety harness or a restraining belt, then attach the lanyard to the boom or the basket once you’re on the platform.
While operating the lift, always keep both feet firmly planted on the platform. Don’t lean over the rails or attempt to gain added reach by standing on boxes, planks, or other objects. And don’t drive with the boom extended.
Thanks for your attention. And remember, let’s stay safe out there!
(From the Sept. 18, 2023, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)