Boom Lift Accidents: Terms, Tips, and Prevention
Boom lifts are one of the most versatile types of aerial lifts. They can safely lift workers to heights of more than 150 feet. Once up in the air, they can also extend horizontally. This provides safe access to work sites that otherwise might not be reachable. Boom lift accidents are always a risk, but with the right training and operation, workers can prevent the very worst types of incidents from occurring.
What are Boom Lifts?
Boom lifts are a type of aerial lift used for both horizontal and vertical reach. Ideal for use in outdoor construction projects and industrial duties, these machines play an essential role in the modern job site. Of course, with great power comes great risk – falls, tip-overs and electric shocks from touching power lines are common boom lift accidents. Without proper training and close attention to safety practices, manlift accidents can cause severe injuries. Some can even result in death.
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Boom Lift Terms
By understanding these incredible machines and their potential hazards, preventing manlift accidents becomes simple. There are two main types of boom lifts to be aware of: articulating and telescopic. Articulating versions – also called knuckle boom lifts – feature a variety of arms that can be moved around obstacles and into tight spaces. Telescopic boom lifts, on the other hand, feature a single hinged arm that can stretch across distances. These are sometimes referred to as straight or stick boom lifts.
Many people confuse boom lifts for a similar machine: the scissor lift. While scissor lifts move up and down, boom lifts allow for forward motion. This versatility – and flexibility – makes boom lifts truly essential for modern construction and maintenance projects. They’re ideal for any job that needs to be completed in the air. From window washing to painting to erecting scaffolding and hanging signs, boom lifts are the solution.
Here are some other key boom lift terms to be aware of:
- Contact pressure – This term refers to the pressure that the lift’s wheels apply to the floor material. In many cases, the weight of aerial work platforms exceeds the capabilities of tile and asphalt floor surfaces. Being aware of the pressure can help mitigate the risk of accidents.
- Grade – The severity of the slope of the land being worked on is referred to as the grade. Frequently measured in percentages, the grade must be factored into the boom lift operation in order to prevent tip-overs.
- Turning radius – When working in especially congested spaces, understanding the lift’s turning radius can make all the difference. It’s equal to one half of the dimension of the circle that the tire follows when the wheel is turned as tight as possible.
What Causes Boom Lift Accidents?
Carelessness and lack of training are two major causes of manlift accidents, scissor lift accidents, and other hazards. Unstable terrain is another factor. Tip-overs, electrocution, overhead dangers and other factors also contribute to manlift accidents.
Boom lift safety standards have improved over the years. Yet, injuries and deaths still occur – look no further than boom lift accident statistics for evidence. According to OSHA, more than 30 workers were killed in boom truck accidents and manlift accidents from 2017 through the first half of 2018. The main causes of death from boom lift accidents are falls, lift tip-overs and electric shock. Workers getting caught between the boom and a hazard is also a common cause.
Boom lift accidents occur for many reasons. One is a lack of focus on the part of workers. When working at height, even a small error can lead to a deadly accident. Failure to follow safety guidelines also causes many boom accidents. For example:
✓ Workers not wearing proper safety gear
✓ Workers not following OSHA safety standards
✓ Unsafe operation of the lift while the bucket is raised
✓ Improper setup of the lift
✓ Using the boom lift in unsafe weather
✓ Lack of maintenance or repairs
✓ Failure to inspect the lift before use
How Lack of Training Can Cause Boom Lift Accidents
Lack of training is a main source of many aerial lift accidents. In fact, untrained workers are more likely to be involved in accidents. For example, a few years ago a Notre Dame student was killed in a scissor lift accident. The young man, who had no training in aerial lift safety, used the lift to film football practice. The day of the accident, winds as strong as 50 mph blew across the field. The student did not know that high winds made the lift unsafe. At one point, a strong gust of wind toppled the lift and the student died from injuries suffered in the fall.
OSHA held Notre Dame responsible for the accident. They also levied a fine of $77,500 for six safety violations. Notre Dame accepted full responsibility for their role in the student’s death. They also launched a program to improve their aerial lift safety process. However, it was too late for the student and his friends and family.
With the right training, this fatal accident could have been avoided. Yet, boom lift accidents like this one and other industrial mishaps – including scissor lift accidents – happen every year. That’s why anyone who works on aerial lifts should have the proper training and certification.
Boom Truck Accidents that Should Not Have Happened
Most boom lift accidents have one thing in common – they could have been prevented.
In 2016, a worker in Taunton, Massachusetts died in a boom accident because his employer didn’t follow required safety standards. When working at 45 feet, the boom lift tipped over. The force of the crash ejected the worker, who died from his injuries.
OSHA inspectors determined the lift was positioned on unlevel ground. This conflicted with federal safety standards and the lift’s operator manual. The worker’s fall protection lanyard was not attached to the basket or boom. Also, the employer had not trained him to recognize this hazard. Had the employer-provided training and followed safety guidelines, this boom accident would not have happened.
More recently, two men died in a boom lift accident in Portland, Oregon. They were using an 85-foot boom lift to take down a music festival stage. The boom was positioned on an uneven grass slope. Raising the retracted boom on the unsafe slope caused it to tip over backward. The two workers were wearing safety equipment and were roped to the boom lift. But the force of their impact with the ground proved lethal.
This shows that it only takes one mistake to result in a tragic boom lift accident. The workers were wearing fall protection gear. They followed the safety guidelines. The weather wasn’t a factor. But the lift was set up in an unsafe location. This one factor caused the tip-over that took the lives of two men.
Most boom lift accidents and scissor lift accidents can be avoided by training and certifying lift workers.
Yet, many firms don’t train their workers. Or they fail to retrain them once their certifications lapse. As a result, lives are lost. Fellow workers are devastated. Employers pay huge fines. And their companies’ reputations are ruined for not following safety guidelines.
How to Prevent Boom Lift Accidents and Manlift Accidents
We’ve listed the four main causes of boom lift accidents and manlift accidents. The question is: why do they occur? Falls often involve a worker who isn’t wearing a safety harness and lanyard. Boom tip-overs can occur from incorrect lift setup. Broken equipment and high winds can cause tip-overs. Electric shocks often occur when workers fail to maintain a 10-foot distance from a live power line. When workers get caught between the lift and an object, it’s often when moving the bucket during a job. OSHA provides safety guidelines to help prevent these types of boom accidents.
✓ Workers should wear a harness and lanyard at all times
✓ Workers should not belt off to nearby structures
✓ Scissor lifts must be equipped with guardrails
✓ Workers should stand firmly in the bucket, never on the railing
Operating the Lift
✓ Never exceed the max lift load capacity
✓ Don’t put objects larger than the platform in the bucket
✓ Never drive the boom lift with the bucket raised
Avoiding Overhead Obstructions
✓ Be aware of all overhead objects before starting the job
✓ Keep clear of overhead hazards when positioning the lift
✓ Maintain a 10-foot distance from power lines
✓ Assume power lines are live unless notified by a qualified source
✓ Turn off the power to nearby lines when possible
Stabilizing the Boom Lift
✓ Set outriggers on flat, stable surfaces
✓ Use brakes with outriggers
✓ When safe to do so, use wheel chocks on sloped ground
✓ Set up warning zones with cones and signs
Aerial Lift Training
✓ Train and certify all operators to OSHA standards
✓ Make sure workers are certified for the type of lift being used
✓ Retrain workers after an accident or near-miss
✓ Provide new training when a new type of lift is used
✓ Retrain when workers’ certifications expire
Aerial lift accidents can be prevented by training workers to follow these safety procedures. Watch the short video for a quick overview of boom lift safety techniques.
Avoid Boom Lift Accidents and Scissor Lift Accidents with ALC Online Training
AerialLiftCertification.com makes it easy to train and certify your lift workers. The training is fast and affordable. It complies with all OSHA standards. Workers can take the training from anywhere that offers Internet access. They can use a PC, laptop or mobile device. Training takes around an hour to complete. Workers who pass the online exams can print their certificates on the spot.
To prevent boom lift accidents, the training covers many safety techniques. These include the safe operation of cherry pickers, telescopic boom lifts, articulating boom lifts, and scissor lifts. Other safety topics include how to:
- Inspect a boom lift before starting a job
- Assess the work site for hazards
- Recognize maintenance and repair needs
- Prevent boom truck accidents
Best of all, our training kit is ideal for companies with ongoing training needs. You can train workers one at a time. Or you can train and certify the whole team at your place of business. Simply create an account on our website and receive your boom lift certifications in only one hour! Prevent manlift accidents, scissor lift accidents and more with ALC. To learn more about our offerings and sign up for our training, click here or dial 888-278-8896.