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Are Scissor Lifts Considered Aerial Lifts

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What is an Aerial Lift?

Aerial lifts are also known as Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP). They are large vehicles that use booms or other means to lift personnel up to a desired work area. There are many different kinds used for reaching heights differently, such as side by side or right under. They can be used across many industries, but are most commonly found in the construction industry.

Are Aerial Lifts and Scissor Lifts the Same?

Scissor lifts are unique because of their design compared to aerial lifts. Scissor lifts are capable of raising employees vertically using hydraulic beams that cross and fold like scissors.For this reason there may be some confusion. The short answer is no, but that ultimately depends on who you ask.

So Are Scissor Lifts Considered Aerial Lifts?

According to OSHA, scissor lifts are actually categorized as scaffolds, not aerial lifts. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), however, does classify scissor lifts as aerial lifts.

Scissor Lifts as Scaffolding

Scissor lifts do not fit the description of an aerial lift as outlined in OSHA standards. Rather, scissor lifts more accurately fit OSHA's description of scaffolding. This means that employers are required to follow the requirements and guidelines for scaffolding and not for aerial lifts.

Scissor Lifts as Aerial Lifts

Conversely, in ANSI standards, scissor lifts are classified as a type of aerial lift. Because the function of scissor lifts generally fits the function of an aerial lift, we will include them in this article as their own category of aerial lifts.

What Other Kinds of Aerial Lifts Are There?

There are many different types of aerial lifts. They all raise employees to work at heights, but they do so in different ways that depend on working circumstances. All of them have similar controls and components as well, such as platform controls, ground controls, outriggers, and guardrails. The differences between aerial lifts depend mostly on the job and the terrain they function in.

Scissor Lifts

As discussed earlier, scissor lifts are considered by some regulatory bodies to be a type of aerial lift. They are best used for operations in which the employee needs to reach an area on the ceiling of an indoor building or an area under an outdoor bridge, for example.

Although scissor lifts are most commonly used for indoor projects, there are types designed for outdoor work as well. Indoor scissor lifts have tires that only work on flat surfaces and outdoor scissor lifts have tires intended for uneven surfaces.

Boom Lifts

Boom lifts use a hydraulic arm connected to a platform or bucket. The arm is connected to a large four-wheeled base. What makes these unique from scissor lifts is that boom lifts can reach areas both vertically and horizontally, making them more versatile. There are two types of boom lifts:

  • Straight booms: These booms extend like a telescope and have great vertical reach. However, they are limited in horizontal movement significantly. Straight booms are also known as telescopic boom lifts.
  • Articulating booms: These booms allow the operator more flexibility because they have multiple sections that allow for more horizontal movement to reach around obstacles.

Vertical Lifts

Vertical lifts, also known as personnel lifts, are the smallest type of aerial lift. They are designed to only hold one person at a time. Using a stacked set of hydraulic beams, they ascend vertically to medium heights. Vertical lifts are similar to scissor lifts in that they are useful for lifting employees up to or under areas where they need to work. They are used almost exclusively indoors and are especially lightweight and versatile.

Bucket Trucks

Bucket trucks, also known as Cherry Pickers, have a base that more obviously resembles a truck. This makes them especially versatile aerial lifts for work areas with roads, but can be used for a variety of other tasks as well.

They have a hydraulic boom that can move both vertically and horizontally, much like an articulated boom lift can. Their bucket usually only fits one employee at a time, although other models may be able to fit more employees.

Are Telehandlers Considered Aerial Lifts?

Telehandlers are considered to be both aerial lifts and forklifts. They use a hydraulic boom to lift heavy objects –meeting the description of a forklift– and are designed to travel through rough terrain outdoors.

However, there are bucket and platform attachments that can be used with telehandlers to allow for lifting personnel. These attachments need to be approved by the manufacturer for use. An approved bucket or platform attachment classifies them as aerial lifts.

OSHA Standards for Aerial Lifts

There are specific standards that OSHA has in place for aerial lifts that are crucial to working safely with them. These are the primary standards OSHA has outlined for aerial lifts:

  • Design: OSHA requires all aerial lifts to follow ANSI standards concerning “Vehicle Mounted Elevating and Rotating Work Platforms.” They need to have platform controls, ground controls, and outriggers. They can be powered or operated manually.
  • Material: Aerial lifts can be made out of metal, wood, fiberglass reinforced plastic, or other materials.
  • Modification: So long as the manufacturer has approved of any modification of the aerial lift, it can be modified for uses it wasn’t originally intended for.
  • Inspections: Perform yearly and daily pre-shift inspections both key-on and key-off. You need to perform these inspections to ensure the lift controls are working and that there is no damage or wear that deems the aerial lift unsafe to use.
  • Fall Protection: The employee that enters the bucket of the aerial lift needs to wear a body belt and have a safety harness attached to an approved anchor point.
  • Operation: Set all outriggers anytime the aerial lift is being used and make sure to use wheel chocks if working on an incline.
  • Do not move the aerial lift while it is being used with personnel in the bucket. Do not use the ground controls unless the employee in the bucket has given you permission to use them, or unless there is an emergency.

Basic Aerial Lift Safety

It is very important to follow all standards and safety procedures when operating an aerial lift. There are many hazards involved when working with an aerial lift such as falling from heights, electrocution, tipovers, struck-by, and maintenance related accidents. Some basic safety tips for staying safe when using aerial lifts include but are not limited to:

  • Always conduct pre-shift inspections and do not use the aerial lift if anything is worn or not functioning properly.
  • Inspect anchor points on the bucket for wear. If they are damaged or rusted, they probably won’t hold in the case of a fall.
  • Never put your head between the beams of a scissor lift or in any component of an aerial lift. Inspect the part you need to use a flashlight if you need to see it better.
  • Be familiar with the weight capacity and limits of the boom extension. Refer to the operator’s manual to learn more.
  • Do not use ladders on the platform of an aerial lift and do not use the guardrails as a ladder to reach up higher.
  • Be aware of weather conditions and how they may affect the soil when using outriggers to stabilize the aerial lift.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet from power lines, or more if the voltage is higher than 50KV.
  • Use a spotter for all operations to help you stay away from power lines and other obstacles that may be in the work area.

Training Opportunities

Using an aerial lift is no simple task, as you can see from all the hazards that come with it. Basic safety training is required for all workplaces, but some employers and states may have additional training requirements. Taking the time to be safety trained will benefit you and your fellow employees regardless of requirements your workplace may or may not have.

Here at Hard Hat Training, we provide aerial lift training online as well as in other formats which can be found on our training page.

Online and Onsite Courses

Hard Hat Training offers online aerial lifting training. These courses are cost-effective and self-paced, making them a great option for employees regardless of location. The only disadvantage to online training is the lack of hands-on training and a trainer to ask questions regarding the material.

This is why we also offer onsite options such as the training kits, which an employer can use to do the training themselves. If they are not sure how to train regarding aerial lifts, they can get the Train the Trainer course in addition to the kit which helps them prepare to teach the material of the kit. Of course, if needed, you can also receive training from one of our trainers. Our trainers will come to your workplace and teach you and your fellow employees about aerial lifts. This is a great opportunity for hands-on training with your equipment.

Whatever works best for you and your training needs can be found at our website, where we provide effective, organized, and accurate information for a variety of topics.

View Aerial Lift / MEWP Training Options
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