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The Key to Scissor Lift Safety

Scissor Lift with Harness - Courtesy of Brandon Hire

Scissor Lift with Harness – Courtesy of Brandon Hire

Sometimes, a simple suggestion can cause an entire system or organization to rethink its ways.

Take scissor lift safety experts, for instance.

Earlier this year at the regional International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) meeting, a suggestion about harnessing for scissor lift workers sent shockwaves through the industry. Should scissor lift workers always be restrained? Would better safety training, supplemented with targeted restraint for certain work conditions, work better?

One Suggestion, Much Head-Scratching

The “controversy” started when safety expert Gary Riley made an innocent enough comment: should scissor lift workers always tie off at the machine for fall protection?

Keep in mind, Riley’s comments did not include aerial work platforms (AWPs) or aerial lifts. Some strong reactions were directed at Riley before the facts were fully out in public view – to be clear, Riley was only referring to scissor lifts. It is possible that this controversy sprang forth because according to OSHA, in a letter addressed to the chairman of the National Telecommunications Safety Panel, only workers on aerial lifts are required to be tied off at all times, according to The Aerial Lift Standard. Scissor lifts are technically covered under the Scaffold Standard which states that workers need to be protected by either a personal fall arrest system or a guardrail system that meets OSHA’s requirements. Fall arrest systems may be required only when a scissor lift is being used that has been designed to withstand the vertical and lateral loads caused by an arrested fall.

Scissor Lift Safety Training is Key to Preventing Accidents

During the fall of 2010, a Notre Dame student was employed by the school’s football team to record practices from on top a scissor lift. The student was killed one afternoon when the lift was raised over 39 feet into the air so he could get a better view of the players, and a gust of wind of over 50 miles per hour blew the lift over, fatally injuring the student. The student employee was reported to have not received any scissor lift safety training before starting his employment.

This tragic accident can be a lesson for all industry workers. At the root of Riley’s assertion is this: it’s always better to have a well-trained scissor lift worker at the controls than an average or subpar operator tied in & at the helm.

To put is simply, in Riley’s view: training trumps tie-in devices, all day long.

And we happen to agree. Take and piece of industrial equipment, and it’s always the same issue; whenever unqualified personnel are operating a vehicle, the chance of an accident is higher than with a trained worker.

The Importance of Scissor Lift Safety Training

According to Logistics Services Inc., there are an average of eight scissor lift-related deaths every year in the U.S. And 40% of these fatalities result from tip-overs of the scissor lift. The other top causes of scissor lift fatalities are operating on an uneven surface, positioning over holes, debris, and drop-offs, climbing above or leaning over the guardrails, overloading and collapsing the boom, coming into contact with electrical wires, neglecting to use outriggers to prevent tip-overs, operating the scissor lift in poor weather, neglecting to repair any mechanical or structural defects, and untrained operators working the equipment.

Operating a scissor lift does not have to be a death threat. Scissor lift safety training teaches workers how to recognize and avoid all of these occurrences that lead to accidents, turning them into preventable situations.

For even further and in-depth analysis, Riley shed light on six different lift accidents. Three resulted in fatalities – and in those three, the workers were tethered to the scissor lift. For the other three accidents (where the workers were free to move about), no deaths resulted. When workers have completed safety training, they understand the dangerous risks involved with operating a scissor lift. Therefore, they are not as willing to take risks or make reckless decisions. On the other hand, untrained workers are simply uneducated on the importance of safety and the accidents that can happen, so they are more likely to do something unsafe and cause injury or death, even if they are tethered.

The Primary Components of Scissor Lift Safety Requirements

Scissor lifts come with their fair share of dangers. As mentioned above, it is always better to have training with safety tools than it is to have all of the safety equipment in the world and no training. Lacking crucial knowledge for not only preventing serious injuries and fatalities, but also for being able to recognize and avoid hazards altogether is the Achilles heel for all untrained operators. OSHA scissor lift safety guidelines have narrowed it down to three primary components for preventing scissor lift accidents; fall protection, stabilization, and positioning.

Fall Protection is one of the most effective systems created for preventing both scissor lift and aerial lift accidents. While it is not required for scissor lift operators to use all of the fall protection tools that aerial lift workers use, OSHA does regulate that employers make sure a guardrail system is in place before work can begin on a scissor lift.

Stabilization for scissor lifts involves employers making sure that scissor lifts are stable and cannot tip over or collapse.

Positioning regulations help to prevent crushing and electrocution accidents from happening. These types of accidents can occur when the scissor lift is positioned incorrectly and underneath danger zones, like live electrical wires and fixed objects.

Scissor lift safety training that is OSHA-compliant dives into each of these three main components of scissor lift safety much more thoroughly, and prepares employees to operate scissor lifts in the safest manner possible to protect their lives.

Additional  Scissor Lift Safety Tips

In addition to receiving scissor lift safety training, workers can prevent accidents by never exceeding the rated load of the lift, inspecting the controls before use, selecting work locations with level ground and firm surfaces, steering clear of electrical power sources by at least ten feet, operating during safe weather conditions, moving the machine safely with the lift lowered, setting the breaks before raising the lift, not removing guardrails, and reporting any issues and malfunctions immediately.

As you can see, training is the single most important factor in avoiding accidents, whether or not you’re tied to the scissor lift or not. Aerial Lift Certification can elevate your skills and enhance your daily safety practices. With three training courses to match your specific requirements, ALC is the only OSHA-compliant instructor you need. Forget expensive 3rd party “solutions.” Do it yourself with ALC. Save money, gain peace of mind, work smarter, be safer. You really can have it all with Aerial Lift Certification!

Call our aerial lift and scissor lift OSHA safety consultants at (888) 278-8896, or visit the ALC contact page. Thanks for checking out the ALC blog – check back for more stories that matter to you and your industry!

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