Aerial Lift 101: What You Need to Know
What are aerial lifts and what do you need to know about them? To help those new to the aerial equipment sector, please find some basic information that hopefully reduces the learning curve.
What are aerial lifts?
Aerial lifts are powered, mobile platforms utilized in various industries to complete work at elevated heights.
Are there different types of aerial lifts?
Technically, aerial lifts fall under the aerial work platform (AWP) family. Generally, the various types of lifts are defined by their lifting and motor mechanisms. For example, the following are the main types of lifts:
Also known as an aerial device, elevating work platform, bucket truck and/or mobile elevating work platform. Generally, scissor lifts provide a platform to complete work at low to medium heights.
“The platform provides a solid foundation to work to be completed at low and medium heights. In particular, scissor lifts leverage a criss-crossing metal support structure that elongates as the platform rises.”
Generally, when people think “aerial lift” they envision boom lifts. Originally, the construction industry leveraged these lifts for large projects, but their use has increased in scope because they offer specialization in many different working conditions.
“Boom lifts are the closest in appearance to a crane, consisting of a number of jointed sections, which can be controlled to extend the lift in a number of different directions, which can often include "up and over" applications.”
Articulating Boom Lift
Articulating boom lifts, which are also known as knuckle boom lifts, are one of the most common types of aerial work platforms. These lifts allow operators to access awkward or hard to reach spaces and provide a safe work platform.
“Ultimately, articulating lifts provide operators with the ability to move up, over and out with precision. This versatility ensures obstacles do not hinder completion of various projects or hard to maintain areas.”
Telescopic Boom Lift
Telescopic boom lifts, also known as straight boom lifts, provide a great mobile option because the work platform extends out of the base (unfolding like a telescope!). As a result, the work platform elevates vertically or horizontally to reach work spaces.
“Ultimately, telescopic lifts provide operators the ability to move horizontally or vertically in order to take workers exactly where they are needed.”
Another type of boom lift, the cherry picker offered one of the first use cases. As the name implies, farmers used these lifts in orchards to help pick fruit off the trees. Due to the flexible maneuvering, farmers were able to pick fruit and avoid damage to their trees.
Additionally, aerial lifts differ by their motor. As noted, these lifts work best as a temporary platform, which means they must move to a particular location. As a result, aerial lifts are designed to move up and down ramps, along with other easy movements. For example, AWPs generally leverage one of the following types of motors.
Self-Propelled Motor Drive
For many AWPs, they are built with a motor in the base, which allows them to drive themselves. However, generally, these self-propelled AWPs move around job sites, but still require external transportation to reach the site (i.e., AWPs are not designed to drive on the roads).
For large AWPs, they are mounted on a vehicle (such as a truck or railway cars), which is known as “self-drive”. Additionally, these underlying vehicles provides stability to the AWP unit, but may still require additional stabilizers.
No Motor Drive
Smaller AWPs may actually lack a motor drive, which means they need an external force to move them. However, depending on the size, these can actually fit in the bed of a pickup truck or even moved by hand (if they have wheels).
What are the main uses of aerial lifts?
There are a variety of types of aerial lifts, which means there are a number of use cases. Typically, aerial lifts provide a temporary platform for maintenance and/or new construction. For example, telecommunications companies use a “bucket lift” to fix power lines. Additionally, warehouse workers utilize a “scissor lift” to move inventory around high shelves.
For more, here are some of the main use cases for aerial lifts.
Aerial lifts make an invaluable contribution to the construction industry. In particular, sites that require intense detail and/or focused work in high places make great use of aerial lifts. After all, lifts provide a safe platform, so workers can concentrate on the tasks at hand. Additionally, a safe working platform offers increased efficiency because workers have access to all of their tools and peace of mind they are working in a safe space.
As one of the original use cases, the agriculture industry continues to leverage aerial lifts. For example, the lifts still help harvest crops, but also help maintain the foliage around residential trees. In particular, aerial lifts continue to provide safety precautions because much of the equipment used in agriculture can be dangerous if mishandled.
Today, massive warehouses power much of the global economy, which means lots of stuff at really high levels. As a result, AWPs, such as the scissor lift, offers an efficient and effective way for workers to evaluate or retrieve inventory stored on the higher shelves. In addition to filling more orders, the scissor lift helps manage inventory, while improving employee safety when interacting with inventory.
New and experienced field workers in the telecommunications industry will quickly tell anyone how nerve-racking it feels to fix or maintain lines on telephone poles. AWPs, such as boom lifts, offer a safe working platform, that provides the flexible mobility required to gain access to power lines (without compromising safety). Additionally, these lifts ensure workers can access all of the required tools, which reduces the fall risk as they do not need to continually go up and down a ladder. As a result, boom lifts are fantastic at increasing the speed and efficiency of telecommunication maintenance.
Aerial lifts offer access to difficult spaces, but also provide safety because there is a stable platform, but also enough room for all of the tools needed to complete the specific job at hand. As a result, the general building maintenance field also relies on AWPs because the lifts support both workers and their tools. From painting a large building to washing windows or even fixing the façade of a building, aerial lifts provide a plethora of use cases to help maintain a building.
Finally, although there are plenty of use cases, it is important to note that different safety risks abound within the multitude of uses. However, if you follow the safety instructions precisely and instruct employees to do the same, an aerial lift provides a safe and valuable addition to your arsenal of equipment.
Are there aerial lift regulations?
As part of the US Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces workplace safety standards and helps set aerial lift regulations. In fact, as part of OSHA’s work overseeing workplace safety, the regulations helped the country experience a reduction in injury rates and business costs associated with injury-related costs. Additionally, OSHA provides a fact sheet to help industry professionals understand use cases that fall under the aerial lift standards and adhere to workplace safety regulations.
For example, OSHA defines aerial lifts as any vehicle-mounted device utilized to raise person, which includes:
- Extendable boom platforms.
- Aerial ladders.
- Articulating (jointed) boom platforms.
- Vertical towers.
- Any combination of the above.
Plus, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) works with industry professionals to create aerial lift standards (ANSI 92.2 Standards), which include the following:
- A92.20-2018: Design, Calculations, Safety Requirements, and Test Methods for MEWPs
- A92.22-2018: Safe Use of MEWPs
- A92.24-2018: Training Requirements for the Use, Operation, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of MEWPs
Under the new ANSI standards, changes were made to how frequently inspections must be carried out, what needs to be inspected and how companies must be stored. Additionally, the A92.2 clarifies annual inspections must be performed by a qualified person and be conducted no more than 13 months after the previous inspection. As a result of the A92 standards, operators must remain up-to-date in industry changes and workplace inspections to ensure they meet current ANSI certifications.
Do I need a certification to operate an aerial lift?
ANSI provides more information on the certification process.
Additionally, as part of the certification process, operators must undergo proper training, which remains a large part of adhering to OSHA standards (and ANSI certification).
“Proper training includes clearly explaining the dangers behind electrical issues and falling object hazards, along with the necessary procedures for dealing with those concerns. For example, training must cover how to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions. Additionally, required training provides instructions for correct operation of aerial lifts and ensuring equipment meets the manufacturer’s requirement, along with knowing when and how to perform inspections. And, to pass the training, operators must demonstrate the skills and knowledge needed to operate an aerial lift before operating it on the job.”
What do I need to know to stay safe?
First and foremost, working with aerial lifts remains inherently dangerous because operators are working high above the grounds. As a result, the risk of falling and/or being struck from falling debris creates a dangerous work environment. Therefore, OSHA and ANSI standards help oversee workplace safety, which includes fall protection guidelines related to operators wearing protective gear that:
- prohibits them from falling more than 6 feet.
- prevents them from experiencing more than 1,800 pounds of arresting force.
- restricts them from contacting any lower surface.
In addition to OSHA guidance, experienced aerial lift operators also share practical safety measures for aerial equipment.
Train, Train & Train
The new A92.2 standards provide further guidance on proper training. For industry experts, these guidelines help support the conventional wisdom. Additionally, ensure you undergo training for each type of aerial lift you intend to operate.
“Whatever training is required for the specific aerial lift you will be operating, make sure you get the full course – and pay close attention throughout. Employers are required to make sure lift operators are trained by someone who is qualified and who has experience with the model of work platform that he or she will be operating. If you aren’t sure if your aerial lift training has been sufficient, say something.”
Wear a Harness
The new A92.2 standards enhance the existing safety guidelines. As a newcomer, wearing a harness is not explicitly noted in the updated standards, but experienced operations know you must wear a harness.
“Full-body harnesses must be worn by anyone using an aerial lift. If for any reason you find yourself falling – because your platform was hit by another moving vehicle or due to some other hazard – a harness will keep the fall from being very far, and it may even save your life. Your harness must be attached to a lanyard, which must be attached to an anchor specifically engineered for this purpose that is inside of the basket or on the boom.”
Aerial Lift Simulators
It can be hard to gain experience using lifts, but fortunately, aerial lift simulators are on the market. For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health developed an Aerial Lift Hazard Recognition Simulator, which mimics a realistic workplace environment completed with hazards, such as potholes.
“This free tool can be beneficial for both novice aerial lift operators to get additional practice as well as veterans to brush up on their skills. The simulator should not serve as a replacement for the training that is already required for aerial platform use, but it can be a useful supplement to it.”
Respect the Aerial Equipment and Dangerous Work Environment
As a newcomer, you will certainly rely on your training and respect the aerial lift equipment. But, as you gain experience, it is human nature to rely on experience. However, humans make mistakes. As a result, experienced operators remind everyone to avoid workarounds and respect the work environment.
“We’re all working to meet a deadline, and that always makes it tempting to find quick fixes to speed things up. With aerial platform use, that’s not an option – whether boom lift or forklift, safety is of the utmost importance. Avoid overloading the lift beyond its capacity. Also, do not climb out of the platform to complete your job. Never place a ladder on your lift. And lastly, avoid standing on the guardrail. Taking the extra time to complete a task correctly may mean a slight delay, or even late delivery on the final resolution. But the alternative isn’t worth saving yourself some time.”
And, as part of respecting the equipment and environment, a few additional safety steps.
- Check for electrical lines.
- Inspect the lift prior to usage and test the controls are functioning correctly.
- Follow all of the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Be aware of the Safe Floor Load Capacity before you drive on the floor.
Finally, in addition to these practical safety measures, OSHA also offers numerous safety standards.
Are there aerial lift maintenance guidelines?
In addition to following the OSHA safety guidelines and ANSI standards, regular maintenance of your aerial lift helps improve the longevity for your device, along with ensuring your equipment works properly. As a result of properly maintaining your AWP device, your operations become more efficient and effective, while adhering to the best safety standards in the field.
First, maintenance starts during pre-use inspections. For example, during an inspection, if you notice any damage, then remove it from field work at that time and address the damage. Additionally, for more, remember to routinely complete the following aerial lift maintenance checks.
- Fluid Levels - ensure the oil, hydraulic, gas, brake and other fluids remain at appropriate levels based on manufacturer’s guidance.
- Tire Pressure - Check tire and wheel pressure to avoid compromising safety concerns during the operation of the device.
- Personal Safety Equipment - Ensure safety gear, such as gloves, hats, harnesses and glasses, remain in good condition.
- Post Job Lift Examination - Following a completed job, conduct a concise inspection, which reduces the possibility of small problems becoming more significant dangers.
- Take Notes & Records - Maintain a detailed record of inspections, maintenance and repairs.
Secondly, OSHA provides an aerial lift factsheet, which provides tips on maintenance, as well as operational tips.
Finally, for more information on maintaining your aerial lift equipment, Aerial Equipment Parts maintains a vast inventory of replacement parts.
What is Aerial Equipment Parts?
We are an equipment parts wholesaler. AEP strives to provide quality parts at a reasonable price to all users in the aerial lift industry. Additionally, we know you have a lot of things to think about - getting the right part for your lift shouldn't be one of them. So, our parts meet or exceed the original manufacturer's quality. Plus, we know when you need a part, you need it fast to ensure your operations don’t slow down. As a result, we maintain stocked warehouses throughout the US and ship Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. CST.
Interested in learning more?
At Aerial Equipment Parts we realize it is important to speak with sales representatives that know the aerial lift industry. Most of our reps have started in our warehouse fulfilling orders and worked their way up to phone support. When you call AEP you will speak with someone who knows parts. For any aerial lift equipment questions, contact us today at 303-704-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.