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How Do Accidents Happen on Aerial Lifts?


How Do Accidents Happen on Aerial Lifts?

Aerial lifts are known for their impressive size and reach capabilities. They have made the processes of tree care, window cleaning, exterior building maintenance, and many other tasks possible, but with great possibility comes great risk. There are an estimated 12 fatal injuries on workplaces every day in the US, and many of them are caused by aerial lift accidents. Working at great heights puts workers on and near the lift at risk, and is responsible for serious injuries, deaths, costly equipment damage, and legalities every day.


The Most Common Aerial Lift Accidents and How They Happen

According to OSHA, the most common types of aerial lift accidents are tip-overs, workers falling from heights, electrocutions, workers being struck by vehicles and other objects, and workers being crushed by objects. However, the vast majority of these aerial lift accidents are a result of negligence, error, or failure to follow the American National Standards Institute’s and OSHA’s guidelines, resulting in death or severe injuries. Safety violations are the most common cause for aerial lift accidents, which include: lack of fall protection, tip-overs, working near power lines, crushing/pinching, falling objects, and unstable surfaces.


From 1992-1999, 26 construction workers died from aerial lift accidents, while there were 69 electrocutions from improper aerial lift use. During that time, there were also 64 falls, 46 collapses/tip-overs, 23 caught in/caught between, and 5 other deaths related to aerial lifts. With 207 aerial lift deaths from 1992-1999, 70 percent of those were boom lift accidents.


25 percent of aerial lift deaths are due to scissor lift accidents, which typically occur from falls related to being struck by an object and tip-overs from driving with the lift extended. Most all aerial lift accidents can be avoided by keeping buckets clear from overhead objects, such as power lines, utilizing proper harnesses and safety gear, and keeping the lift clear from obstructions, including other workers.


Most accidents occur when safety guidelines are ignored, such as driving a lift while it’s extended, exceeding manufacturer requirements, and operating on uneven surfaces. AerialLiftCertification recommends all aerial lift operators are properly trained, certified, and abide by OSHA and safety regulations to reduce the risk for lift-related deaths and injuries.


How Can Aerial Lift Accidents Be Prevented?

Aerial lift hazards are very serious and not to be taken lightly. However, they are preventable with the right knowledge, protection equipment, and training.


In order to prevent aerial lift accidents like tip-overs, ejections, electrocutions, and falls, aerial lift operators and employers need to follow the safety procedures and precautions listed below that can be broken up into four main components:


Fall Protection

  • Make sure access gate are closed
  • Stand on the floor of the bucket or platform firmly
  • Do not climb on the guardrails
  • Use a body harness and lanyard whenever operating on an aerial lift
  • Do not belt off to nearby structures while in the aerial lift bucket



  • Never exceed load-capacity limits
  • Do not carry objects that are bigger than the platform
  • Do not drive the aerial lift with the platform raised
  • Do not exceed vertical or horizontal reach limits
  • Do not operate an aerial lift or scissor lift in poor weather, like high winds
  • Do not override the safety devices on the lift


Overhead Protection

  • Assess surroundings and be aware of overhead objects and structures
  • Do not position the aerial lift between overhead hazards
  • Consider all electrical lines live
  • Stay at least ten feet away from all power lines
  • De-energize power lines when nearby


Proper Stabilization

  • Use outriggers on level surfaces and set the brakes when used
  • Use wheel chocks on sloped surfaces when safe
  • Set up work zone areas with cones and signs to warn others nearby



  • Make sure all aerial lift operators are trained and certified to operate aerial lifts before any work can begin
  • Retrain workers when unsafe practices are observed or a new aerial lift is being used


Where to Get Aerial Lift Training to Prevent Aerial Lift Accidents

Aerial lift accidents are caused by a number of hazards and can be prevented using many types of safety practices. However, the best and most effective way to prevent aerial lift accidents is through proper operator training. Aerial lift training from is fast, easy, convenient, and affordable. The program is self-paced, but it typically takes trainees only about one hour to complete, from any device with the internet.


In a single afternoon, workers can be trained and certified to operate aerial lifts and be prepared to prevent these aerial lift accidents.


Sign up today and get your aerial lift certification!

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