Thanks to aerial lifts, we are now able to reach new heights in construction, from the roofs of houses to the tops of telephone poles. Working up high is common in the construction industry, but unfortunately, so is serious and sometimes fatal injury. This year, 10,000 construction workers will be injured from falls at the worksite. Falls are also the leading cause of death for construction workers, killing several hundred workers in the United States each year.
The good news is, you can do something to prevent an accident. Failure to meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards for safety and inspection is the most common citation following deaths due to falls. Take the initiative to hold your construction site equipment to a high standard, and you can prevent injury to your workers and possibly even save a life.
Being a responsible aerial lift operator means taking the time to inspect your aerial lift before each shift. Always follow your lift manufacturer’s specific instructions on proper inspection. If your first glance at the machine shows no obvious damage, move on to this checklist of recommended components for inspection:
- Fluid – check your oil, hydraulic fluid, fuel and coolant. Make sure all fluids are at the proper level and there are no leaks.
- Wheels and tires – check for wear and damage. Make sure the tires can handle the terrain.
- Battery and charger
- Lower-level controls
- Horn, gauges, lights and backup alarms
- Steering and brakes
- Fire extinguisher – in case an emergency does arise, be sure the fire extinguisher is present and its expiration date has not passed.
- Operating and emergency controls
- Personal protective devices
- Hydraulic, air, pneumatic, fuel & electrical systems – be sure these are all running properly. Electric shock is one of the top hazards associated with aerial lifts. Also be sure that the fibreglass and other insulating components on the lift are in good condition
- Placards and warnings, or operational, instructional and control warnings – none of these should be missing or illegible
- Mechanical fasteners/locking pins
- Cable and wiring harnesses
- Outriggers, stabilizers and other structures
- Loose or missing parts
- Guardrail systems – read up on OSHA’s Fall Protection Standards here.
- Verify the platform load is within the rated capacity. Check the operator’s manual – don’t “just guess.”
It is important to point out that this aerial lift inspection should be performed concurrently with a good inspection of the work zone. Check your work zone for the following hazards, and stop the project if the site poses a potential danger.
- Drop-offs, holes or loose dirt
- Inadequate ceiling heights and other overhead obstructions, especially overhead electrical power lines
- Slopes, ditches or bumps
- Debris or other floor obstructions
- Severe weather, including high wind, rain and icy conditions
- The presence of others in close proximity to the work site