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The View from Up Above: A Historical Look at Boom Lifts and Aerial Lifts Through the Years

The story behind the aerial lift is one that’s often lost in history. But the brains and innovation behind this widely-used equipment is often interesting, full of insight, and provides clues as to how different lifts will continue to evolve.

The story behind the aerial lift is one that’s often lost in history – but it shouldn’t be. Like other gadgets, tools, and equipment, the history of the aerial lift has plenty of fascinating tidbits. is proud to be one of the most trusted aerial lift and scissor lift training partners. Our OSHA compliant courses show everyone – from beginner operators to experienced veterans – how to safely use the equipment for a wide range of applications. In a way, we’re part of the aerial lift’s story.

But way before OSHA, before online training, and before safety regulations really got off the ground, the aerial lift had to start from somewhere.

Once Upon a Time…How Aerial Lifts (Literally) Got Off the Ground

So how did aerial lifts come to be? They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s certainly true with the development of the aerial lift. It all started back in the mid-20th century – and it started north of the border, in Canada.

Back in 1951, a man named Walter E. Thornton-Trump was having trouble working in high places. Ladders were trusty but were limited in their reach, scope, and flexibility. Regular ladder trucks presented similar problems – they’re fine for firefighting, but not great for doing regular work at elevated heights.

Faced with this problem, Mr. Thornton-Trump had a better idea – and the aerial lift was born! The original aerial lift was cleverly named the Giraffe, due to its long extending “neck.” This device was used for his own work requirements but soon became popular for landscaping tasks.

People used the Giraffe for pruning trees, picking fruit, and similar work in orchards and farms. Soon, the name “cherry picker” stuck – and the rest was history!

The invention of the Giraffe soon led to other innovations for aerial lifts. That same decade, firefighting companies realized how useful Mr. Thornton-Trump’s idea was. As a result, the very first boom lift took hold, a few years before 1960. They were used to extinguish fires – again, boom lifts were much more efficient than regular ladders mounted to trucks.

Similar to the Giraffe’s evolution, the boom lift soon became the accessory of choice for all sorts of workers. Electricians, linemen, maintenance personnel and thousands of other aerial work platform (AWP) employees used the boom lift for literally hundreds of other activities.

Today’s aerial lifts are a far cry from those early models back in the 1950s and 1960s. Just like the evolution of the aerial lift and boom lift, safety regulations have likewise undergone plenty of changes.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established in April of 1971 to protect workers, including aerial lift and boom lift operators. OSHA immediately became one of the most active departments in the U.S. Department of Labor. The agency established, enforced, and investigated safety regulations and standards from its early days, and continues to do so now.

Before OSHA was established, workplace accidents involving aerial lifts and boom lifts were considered an unfortunate but inevitable part of the job. But since the early 1970s, employees and employers are held to the highest workplace safety standards. This includes audits and investigations whenever accidents and injuries occur.

OSHA’s safety milestones are too numerous to list, but one thing’s for sure…OSHA safety guidelines are used by aerial lift employers, employees, and manufacturers all over the country. From 1971 to the present day, OSHA continues to monitor and revise regulations on a regular basis.

Other agencies and organizations also contribute to aerial lift and boom lift safety. For example, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recently updated their aerial lift and boom lift guidelines. ANSI Standard A92, which helps with aerial lift safety, set new standards for:

-Equipment design

-Safe use practices

-Aerial lift and boom lift training

-Risk assessment

-And much more

Just like the aerial lift has changed over the years, safety standards change as well. And AerialLiftCertification will be there to provide thorough, affordable, easily accessible training for anyone who needs it!

Enhance Your Own Aerial Lift Story: Get Training with ALC Today!

The story of aerial lifts includes the countless operators and other AWP employees who go out every day and use the equipment safely and productively. Ensure your own story has a happy ending with OSHA compliant training from AerialLiftCertification.

For employers, our training packages are a great alternative to expensive, off-site training sessions. We’ll help all of your employees become OSHA compliant in less time – and for less money – than you might think. Sign up today!

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