Aerial lifts are “must-have” equipment for many different industries. Without them, workers could not perform tasks high in the air in a safe and efficient manner. These days, companies have many different types of aerial lifts to choose from. Some of the most commonly used include articulating lifts, telescoping boom lifts, cherry pickers, scissor lifts, towable boom lifts and more.
Each type of aerial lift has unique features and capabilities that are designed for specific job tasks. But aerial lifts all have one thing in common: using them involves a certain amount of risk. The higher up in the air they go, the greater the risk. That’s why operators must have proper training and certification to safely handle these large machines.
According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, an average of 26 construction workers die every year from aerial lift accidents in the U.S. Seventy percent of these occur on boom lifts; 30 percent occur on scissor lifts. The reasons for these fatal accidents are many:
- Workers falling from the lift
- Falling lift objects striking workers on the ground
- Aerial lift tip-overs
- Workers getting ejected from the lift platform
- Structural failure (collapsing of the lift)
- Electric shock from live power lines
- Lift collisions with worksite hazards
- Operating lifts in uneven or dangerous terrain
While there are many types of aerial lift accidents, the causes are relatively few: failure to follow OSHA aerial lift safety guidelines, lack of focus on the part of the operator, or using the wrong type of aerial lift for the job. Each of these can often be traced back to inadequate operator training or no training at all.
Is Aerial Lift Certification Mandatory?
OSHA does not require aerial lift operators to be certified. In fact, operators don’t have to be certified or qualified by any specific organization. However, OSHA has two standards that address the qualifications of lift operators.
Section 1926.21(b)(2) states that employers must instruct each aerial lift worker in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to the work environment. Section 1926.453(b)(2)(ii) states that only authorized persons shall operate an aerial lift. OSHA defines an authorized person as a worker approved or assigned by the employer to perform a specific type of duty or duties, or to be at a specific location or locations at the job site.
So, certification isn’t required to operate an aerial lift. However, in the interest of safety, every operator should be trained and certified on the specific aerial lift they will be using. There are many reasons for doing so.
First and foremost, training and certification are essential for keeping workers safe in the air and on the ground. Training teaches workers how to safely operate a lift, how to identify and avoid hazards, and how to prevent accidents. Having a certification card shows that an operator has taken the training courses that teach the essentials of aerial lift safety. It also shows the operator has the knowledge and skills to safely operate an aerial lift.
From the company’s standpoint, training and certification significantly reduce accidents,and can help prevent or reduce fines that can result from accidents. Accidents can still happen with trained and certified aerial lift operators. However, having all aerial lift workers certified will demonstrate that the employer is complying with OSHA guidelines in this area.
What Does Aerial Lift Training Cover?
OSHA does not provide specific training requirements necessary for lift operators, but the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) does. The standards are published inA92.5-2006for boom-supported lifts and A92.6-2006for self-propelled lifts.
Basic aerial lift ANSI training standards include the following:
- Purpose, use and proper storage of operator manuals
- How to conduct a pre-start lift inspection
- Responsibilities associated with operational problems or malfunctions
- Factors that can affect the stability of the lift
- Purpose of placards and decals
- How to inspect the job site for potential hazards
- Safety rules and regulations
- Warnings and instructions for operators
Of course, the training also includes the skills needed to operate the aerial lift. This should take place under the direction of a qualified person who can evaluate the trainee’s proficiency in operation of the lift.
Once this basic training is complete, workers can begin training on specific lifts. This instruction covers the purpose and function of all controls, safety devices and operating features unique to the lift. It can be offered by the aerial lift supplier, and can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.
Aerial Lift Safety in a Warehouse Environment
Aerial lifts, especially scissor lifts, are often used indoors for a variety of job applications. Warehouses have their own set of hazards that require safety training. Common aerial lift warehouse hazards include:
- Low ceilings
- Overhead obstructions, such as ducts, piping and lighting
- Limited space to set up the aerial lift
- Falling objects from the lift
- Inadequate ventilation of engine emissions
- Narrow aisles
Forklifts are essential in most warehouses, but they also provide a different set of hazards. These can include collisions with pedestrians, dropped loads, tip-overs and more. Slick or uneven flooring can cause worker slips and falls, another leading cause of injuries. Damaged or unstable racking can also cause pallets to fall and injure workers.
OSHA Warehouse Safety Guidelines
OSHA offers a number of guidelines to help keep warehouses safe.
- All facilities should have proper lockout/tagout procedures
- Warehouses should have reliable ventilation to avoid buildup of noxious fumes
- Floors, surfaces, and aisles should be kept clean and free of debris
- Loading dock doors and other areas where workers could fall four feet or more should have guardrails
- Employers must consider proper work practices when setting times for workers to accomplish tasks
- Workerswho perform physical work must be allowed breaks
- All new employees should receive ergonomic and task-specific training
- Employees must know how to avoid heat stroke or exhaustion in hot and humid environments
Whether you use aerial lifts indoors or outdoors, few things are more dangerous than having untrained workers operate the lift. These days, aerial lift training can be accomplished quickly and affordably with online training from a reputable organization. Making sure every lift worker in your business is trained and certified will help keep them safe and your business OSHA compliant.
Tom Wilkerson is CEO of CertifyMe.net, a national leader in online, OSHA-compliant forklift training and certification. CertifyMe.net has helped thousands of companies save time and money by self-certifying their forklift operators in-house.