In the fall of 2010, a student employee of Notre Dame University was in charge of filming the school’s football practices from a scissor lift. On one particularly windy day, the untrained worker was told to climb up on the lift and film as usual. The student went up on the lift, raising it to over 39 feet to film the practice. The wind was very strong, with gusts at over 50 miles per hour. The high winds blew the lift over and killed the worker.
Aerial lifts and scissor lifts require comprehensive safety training to prevent tragic accidents like the one above. Ensure all workers receive adequate aerial lift certification and safety training and understand when it is and isn’t safe to operate aerial lifts on windy days.
Do Not Operate an Aerial Lift During Winds of 20 MPH or Higher
Falls were the leading cause of death in the construction industry in 2014. They are also one of the top causes of death for aerial lift operators, and are often caused by high winds and other severe weather. According to the Beaufort Scale of Wind Force, most powered access platforms and boom lifts should not be used when the wind reaches a level 5 on a scale from 0-12. Level 5 is described as a fresh breeze, and between 17-21 miles per hour. Visually, you notice small trees beginning to sway and wave crests starting to form on inland waters.
Do Not Exceed the Lift’s Vertical or Horizontal Reach Limits
Before operating an aerial lift, be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations for vertical and horizontal reach limits. When the vertical or horizontal reach limit is exceeded, it can stress the machinery and cause balance and instability issues. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the lift goes, the more cautious workers need to be. Additionally, take into account the added weight of the workers and any tools on board when calculating the load weight, and use outriggers and stabilizers to help stabilize the lift.
Watch Out for Electrical Power Lines and Other Dangerous Objects
During windy days, many fatalities occur when the worker falls or is blown into power lines or strikes another object like a sign or building. When setting up the work zone, employers and workers need to ensure that there are no potential hazards in close proximity to the aerial lift and that the wind levels aren’t too strong to risk anyone’s safety. When working on electrical lines, remain at least 10 feet away from live electrical lines at all times, and make sure all workers wear protective clothing like hard hats, rubber boots, and insulated gloves.
Always Use Fall Protection Equipment
Fall Protection is a system designed to help prevent fatal falls from aerial lifts. It is required when working at heights of six feet or greater, and whenever working over dangerous objects and materials. Full body harnesses and shock-absorbing lanyards are the main components of Fall protection, along with guard rails on the platform, and are used to prevent a worker from falling to the ground or a lower working level. Fall Protection systems are very effective at