Boom lifts and scissors lifts are two types of commonly used aerial work platforms (AWPs). A boom lift is much more versatile than a scissor lift, which can only be moved straight up and down. A boom lift’s platform is supported by a hydraulic arm that the operator uses to maneuver around obstacles. When extended, boom lifts can reach heights of 130 feet or more, while a scissors lift’s full height is about 50 feet. Both lift types can be extremely dangerous in the hands of untrained operators.
Different worksite conditions present unique safety challenges. A boom lift on sloped or uneven ground can be especially dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced operator. The right training is needed to make sure workers recognize safety hazards that can result in serious injuries or even death.
Types of Boom Lifts
The two main types of boom lifts are articulating lifts and telescoping lifts. Articulating lifts, which are sometimes called “knuckle booms”, have a series of hinged sections that let the operator reach areas over and around physical barriers. Because they’re highly maneuverable, articulating lifts are best for working in areas where access is tight.
Telescopic, or “stick” lifts look a lot like forklifts, but have booms attached that the operator can extend outward and raise upward. Telescopic boom lifts offer more horizontal reach than any other type of AWP. They’re useful when working from a distance, on smaller jobsites or on rugged, uneven ground. They’re also good for working on roofs, washing windows or when materials need to be lifted and stacked overhead.
Using Boom Lift on Slope
Telescoping lifts are generally preferred over articulating lifts when working on uneven or sloped ground. Regardless of the lift type, the platform should only be raised or extended when on a firm surface. Extra care must always be taken when lifts are operated near drop-offs. Only properly trained and certified operators should use boom lifts on slanted ground.
Lifts should never be used on ground that slants more than the manufacturer’s maximum slope rating. Use a digital inclinometer to find the exact degree of the slope. If an inclinometer isn’t available, lay a board or other straightedge at least three feet long on the slope. Next, place a carpenter’s level on the board, raise the lower end of the level until the bubble shows that it’s perfectly horizontal. Measure the distance to the ground, divide that distance by the length of the board, and multiply the result by 100, which will show the percent of the slant. If that number is higher than the maximum slope rating, the lift will need to be winched or hoisted across the sloped area.
Maximum slope ratings are always subject to prevailing ground conditions and can be affected by weather. Mud following a rainstorm or patches of loose gravel can reduce traction and extend stopping distances. Driving speeds need to be reduced when crossing sloped or rough terrain. Extra care needs to be taken when driving or working near drop-offs or cliffs.
Boom lifts used on slopes are at greater risk of tipping over when used in high winds. They should never be used in winds over 28 miles per hour. This can be something of a judgment call by the operator. Using the Beaufort Scale as a guideline, 24 mph winds will cause small trees to sway and produce slight whitecaps on lakes and ponds. Winds over 28 mph hour will set large tree limbs and branches in motion and make whistling sounds as they blow through overhead lines.
Always check the overhead area where you plan to operate the lift for hazards such as overhangs, electrical equipment or high-voltage power lines. Most AWPs aren’t protected against electrical charges. Lines carrying more than 300 volts can arc from the wire to the lift. As a rule of thumb, stay at least 50 feet away from electrical wires on steel towers and 30 feet from wires on wooden or concrete poles. Be sure to include room for wires swinging in high winds.
Tips for Safely Operating Boom Lifts on Slopes
- Always read and understand the owner’s manual
- Use the pre-operation checklist in the operator’s manual to physically inspect the equipment before each use,
- Be sure the tires are inflated to the recommended pressures since improperly inflated tires will make the equipment less stable on slopes
- Check the surrounding area for uncompacted fill, ditches or large holes
- Only lifts designed to climb slopes should be used to drive on them
- As with all AWPs, be sure operators and ground workers are trained and certified to use the equipment
Boom Lift Operator Certification
OSHA requires all employers to provide a workplace free from hazards that can cause death or serious injury. Failure to do so can result in heavy fines or even imprisonment. More importantly, lack of proper training can cause serious injury, permanent disability or even death of an employee. The employer is responsible for ensuring that anyone operating an aerial lift is properly trained, evaluated and certified.
The simplest way to prepare boom lift operators is through AerialLiftCertification.com’s training and certification program. There’s no need for the employee to take time off work or go offsite. Employees can complete the courses online in about an hour either in-house or anywhere there’s an internet connection. Once the program is completed, the certificate OSHA requires the employer to keep on file and a temporary wallet card for the operator can be immediately downloaded and printed. A permanent operator card will be mailed within seven to ten days.
AerialLiftCertification.com’s Lift Training and Certification Program is fast, easy and affordable. Contact us today, and rest assured that your workforce will soon be properly trained and 100% OSHA compliant!