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Weekly Toolbox Talk: Self-Propelled Elevating Work Platforms Aerial Lifts

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The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 25 construction workers die each year using aerial lifts. Approximately 70 percent involve boom lifts such as bucket trucks, while 25 percent of the deaths involve scissor lifts. Many aerial lifts deaths occur when the machines tip over while navigating uneven surfaces.

Other tip-over occurs when the lift is extended more than 15 feet (4.5 meters). Frequently operators lack the training to know they are creating safety hazards. Not only that, it’s critical to plan ahead in order to identify the hazards of an aerial lift job.

To prevent tip-over, aerial lift operators are not to exceed reach/load limits. Pre-start inspections are also important in identifying and controlling hazards, particularly with rented lifts. The foreman should ensure that employees are qualified to operate aerial lifts and that a pre-inspection have been performed prior to each job. Check all labels and warning signs. Do not operate the machine with a hydraulic oil or air leak. An air leak or hydraulic leak can penetrate and burn your skin. Always use the lift according to the manufacturer recommendations. Do not try to turn on the machine if you do not have the key that belongs to that particular lift. Inserting a bad key on the machine can break the key- switch cylinder creating a short circuit on the controls. This can cause the machine to move on its own exposing every employee on the area to a crushing hazard. Keep in mind that when you are working on or near a lift, you should be extremely careful with your surroundings as hazards are always present.

The following are common hazards when operating aerial lifts:

  • No training
  • Inexperience
  • Operating on uneven surfaces
  • Overloading the lift
  • Encountering pot-holes and debris
  • Uncorrected mechanical defects
  • Climbing above or leaning over rails

Safe operating Tips Include:

  • Use the operator’s manual
  • Do not exceed manufacturer’s load capacity limits
  • Do not modify an aerial lift without written permission from the manufacturer
  • Ensure that proper fall protection is provided and used
  • Always closed lift platform doors or chains
  • Do not climb on or lean over guardrails
  • Always inspect the area for possible hazards
  • Do not pull or push anything with the machine
  • Avoid running thru extension cords, water hoses, electrical wires or any object that can cause the machine to loose its balance
  • Most important stay away from the power lines (10 feet)

REMEMBER, “No plan is a plan for disaster. You need to know a lot more than how the control works.”

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