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What Aerial Lift Accident Statistics Reveal About Job Hazards

how boom lift accidents happen and can be prevented

Aerial lifts are known for their impressive size and reach capabilities. They have made the tasks of tree care, window cleaning, exterior building maintenance, and many others possible. But with great possibility comes great risk. Aerial lift accident statistics reflect the hazards associated with these machines.

Aerial Lift Accident Statistics and Examples

On average, 26 construction workers die annually due to aerial lift falls. This represents up to 3% of all deaths in the construction industry.

Additionally, research indicates that other types of workers who may be susceptible to aerial lift accidents and fatalities include:

Electricians

Electric installation and repair professionals

Painters

Carpenters

Meanwhile, there are several notable examples of aerial lift accidents reported to OSHA, and these include:

Aerial Lift Worker Catapulted: An aerial lift operator was catapulted from the lift after a mechanical failure occurred; the operator was not wearing a seat belt or restraint.

Aerial Lift Worker Crushed Between Lift and Trencher: An aerial lift operator sustained critical injuries after a lift rear-ended the trencher; the worker was stuck between the lift and trencher died as a result of the incident.

Aerial Lift Worker Killed When Caught Between Lift and Overhang: An aerial lift operator died after getting caught between a building overhang and the lift’s console controls.

Working at great heights puts workers on and near the lift at risk, and it can lead to serious injuries, deaths, costly equipment damage, and legal issues. Aerial lift accidents are an unfortunate part of industrial work activity. Some accidents can be prevented with common sense safety measures. ALC’s OSHA compliant safety training programs are designed to avoid aerial lift fatalities, scissor lift accidents, and other job-related OSHA violations.

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The Most Common Aerial Lift Accidents

From 1992-1999, 26 construction workers died from boom 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 five other deaths related to aerial lifts.

With 207 aerial lift fatalities from 1992-1999, 70% 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 common aerial lift accidents and aerial lift fatalities 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.

How Do Boom Lift Accidents Happen?

Most boom lift accidents occur when safety guidelines are ignored, such as driving a lift while it’s extended, exceeding manufacturer requirements, and operating on uneven surfaces.

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 of boom lift accidents, which include: lack of fall protection, tip-overs, working near power lines, crushing/pinching, falling objects, and unstable surfaces. As you can see, there’s no single glaring issue when it comes to aerial lift fatalities. There are many factors that contribute to serious accidents. That’s why comprehensive training is so important – as an aerial lift operator, you have to be prepared for everything that comes your way. With ALC’s training, you’ll have a well-rounded skill set and real-world knowledge of OSHA safety guidelines to reduce the chances of aerial lift fatalities.

How Can Aerial Lift Fatalities and 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 boom 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 eight main components:

1. Fall Protection

– Make sure access gates 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

2. Traveling/Loading

– 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 high winds or other severe weather conditions

– Do not override the safety devices on the lift

3. 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

4. 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

5. Pre-Start Inspections

Inspect the vehicle components (fluid levels, leaks, wheels, tires, battery, alarms, brakes) and lift components (controls, insulating components, hydraulic, air, pneumatic, fuel and electrical systems, guardrail systems, etc.) to catch any defects or damages to prevent boom lift accidents.

6. Work Zone Inspection

– Keep an eye out for high-traffic and narrow areas

– Identify any potential blind spots

– Avoid areas where the terrain is uneven or rough

– Ensure coworkers and bystanders are a safe distance away from work zones where aerial lifts are used

– Avoid low ceilings

– Avoid electrical power lines and overhead cables

7. Aerial Lift Maintenance

– Perform regular fluid checks

– Assess the tire pressure

– Conduct an in-depth lift evaluation before using the lift; this evaluation should be performed prior to any work project

– Keep detailed aerial lift maintenance records; these records are paramount to ensure a lift is properly maintained and to comply with OSHA mandates

8. Operator Training

Ensure all aerial lift operators are trained and certified to operate aerial lifts before any work begins. Retrain workers at least once every three years, or when unsafe practices are observed or a new type of aerial lift is being used.

Case Study: Ohio Man Dies in Aerial Lift Accident

aerial lift accidents statistics

Anyone interested in the stories behind aerial lift accident statistics need look no farther than the nightly news for details. An incident in Ohio, for example, claimed the life of one worker and nearly killed a little girl as well. Jeremiah Webb of Circleville, Ohio, died when his aerial lift touched a power line. Webb had an 11-year old girl with him (his daughter’s friend), but she was not seriously injured in the accident. 

Webb was using the lift owned by his employer, Seyfang Electric, according to Circleville Police Chief Wayne Gray. Webb fell out of lift and onto a parked vehicle after getting shocked. Despite efforts by Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, he died later that day. Tragically, Webb died at his parents’ house. Webb lived behind them, according to police reports.

A worker for American Electric Power used another bucket lift to rescue the girl, once the power line was cut. Gray and his fellow officers were able to keep the girl calm during the rescue. “She was a very brave little girl,” said Gray.

Case Study: Three Workers Hurt in Rigged Aerial Lift Accident

It’s not hard to find other instances of aerial work platform accidents. A Hamden, Connecticut incident is an example of exactly what not to do on a job site.

The official police report concluded that 3 workers fell nearly 30 feet from an “aerial lift” on State Street. We’ve put aerial life in quotation marks because, if you look at the photo accompanying the story, the aerial lift actually had a forklift extension on the top.

It appears the workers attempted to walk off the roof of a nearby house and onto a pallet held up by the aerial lift / forklift. Police believe the lift shifted, possibly causing the accident.

It’s not certain whether the lift could even hold the weight of three men. However, transporting workers on a lift-mounted pallet from the rooftop is an ill-advised, potentially deadly activity. All three workers were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital with serious injuries.

How Certification Helps Prevent Common Aerial Lift Accidents

These accidents demonstrate the inherent risk that comes with working with such powerful pieces of machinery. Without proper training and certification, workers may find themselves in over their heads. While aerial lift accident statistics paint a grim picture, the reality is that such equipment can be used quite safely. In fact, thousands of workers rely on aerial lifts each day to safely and efficiently complete their duties on the job. 

Certification isn’t just recommended; OSHA actually requires workers to get fully certified before they ever begin operating aerial lifts. Fail to meet these regulations and your team could face expensive fines. Even if you do manage to skirt OSHA penalties, aerial lift accidents could jeopardize the health and safety of your employees. It’s just not worth the risk – especially when the certification process can be so simple. 

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Online Aerial Lift Certification Opportunities

AerialLiftCertification.com offers training that teaches workers how to take care of overhead obstacles and avoid other aerial lift safety hazards. As a result, your company can reduce the chance of aerial lift fatalities, accidents, and injuries. It’s not just the law; it’s also a great way to avoid aerial lift fatalities and other serious on-the-job incidents.

If you’re ready to prioritize safety and meet OSHA standards, sign your team up for our online aerial lift certification program. It’s the fastest and most convenient way to get your employees in compliance. Need to certify your entire team? Our Train the Trainer option is a great way to ensure everyone has the knowledge they need to stay on the job. To learn more about our offerings and to sign up, click here or dial 888-278-8896.

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