An aerial lift is a mobile work platform that raises workers and their tools above the ground to complete a task. At varying heights, these platforms offer access to what would otherwise be a difficult (or impossible) job – but with that access comes a potential danger. Unfortunately, those working within the construction industry can encounter perils that most other professions don’t have to consider, and falls are one of the hazards, among others, that an aerial platform puts users at risk of.
Tragically, falls kill 200 U.S. construction workers each year. Don’t be a statistic; instead, educate yourself with the following safety measures to minimize your risk of injury or worse. This article will cover the most important of those measures – and it is critical that workers follow them, no matter how high in the air they plan on working.
Train, Train & Train
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.
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.
Check High for Lines
Electrocution is one of the most dangerous hazards associated with aerial platform use; operators don’t notice that their platform is rising straight into power lines until it’s too late. This is, in fact, the most frequent cause of death among aerial lift operators. The solution is a simple yet important safety measure: Before raising your platform, be sure there are no lines where you’re headed. It may be hard to see power lines (if they’re hidden in trees, for instance), so doing a walk around the area before starting your task is always a good idea. If you do see power lines, stay at least 10 feet away from them at all times (unless you are a qualified electrical worker).
Try a Simulator
Training is essential and is largely made up of operating an actual aerial lift. The next best thing is to use a simulator. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed an Aerial Lift Hazard Recognition Simulator that mimics a realistic workplace environment with various hazards, such as potholes, that users must avoid. 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.
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 Don’t Forget To…
- Look over your aerial lift before use. Be sure the base controls are functioning properly in case the controls on the platform stop working and you need someone on the ground to bring you down.
- Follow all of the manufacturer’s guides, from training to safety to modifications – check with it if in doubt.
- Be aware of the Safe Floor Load Capacity before you drive on the floor.
If followed, these safety measures will significantly minimize the risk of injury or death for aerial lift operators. Let’s spread the word on the safe operation of aerial lifts and make work-platform safety our top concern. You don’t know whose life it might save.