Boom and scissors lifts are both aerial work platforms (AWPs), and each has unique features and capabilities that make it suitable for different job sites. These are important pieces of machinery to help in many industries, but they also present unique challenges. They can be dangerous to operate in any situation. However, the risk can increase when trying to use a scissor lift on a slope or a boom lift on a hill. Tip-overs are one of the biggest concerns for operators of lifts, which become an even bigger issue when the lift is tilted at an angle.
Where Can You Use a Scissor Lift?
Scissor lifts come with large platforms that can hold multiple people and pieces of equipment at the same time. This makes them ideal for manufacturing and industrial worksites.
Also, it is important to note that most scissor lifts can only move straight up and down, which makes it hard to move them around obstacles. They can lift workers to heights between 20 to 50 feet as well.
Many people will ask, “Can you use a scissor lift on a slope?” It isn’t recommended to use a scissor lift on an incline. However, it can be done when managed properly and by not exceeding the maximum angle for the lift.
Where Can You Use a Boom Lift?
Boom lifts can go much higher than scissor lifts — up to 130 feet or more. They offer greater flexibility than scissor lifts, since the bucket rests on a hydraulic arm and can move in all directions.
Meanwhile, boom lifts have smaller platforms than scissor lifts. They are also ideal for jobs where the worksite is small or hard to access. Like scissor lifts, boom lifts aren’t recommended to use on a hill or incline. The center of gravity is higher with this machine than with many others, which increases the risk for a tip-over. However, it is possible to work on an incline as long as you don’t exceed the maximum slope for the boom lift.
What Do Boom and Scissor Lifts Have in Common?
Boom and scissor lifts share two things in common relative to worker safety:
1. Both can be dangerous in the hands of untrained operators.
2. Operating a boom lift on a slope or scissor lift on a slope can be risky.
Boom and scissor lift operators require safety training. That way, they can learn about boom and scissor lift slope hazards and how to avoid them.
Using a Boom Lift on an Incline: What You Need to Know
Safely driving a boom lift on a slope starts with knowing the lift’s maximum slope rating.
A digital inclinometer can be used to measure the exact degree of a slope. If you don’t have one, place a board at least 3 feet long on a slope. Then, place a carpenter’s level on the board and raise the lower end of the board level until it is horizontal. Once you do that, complete these steps:
1. Measure the distance to the ground.
2. Divide the distance by the length of the board.
3. Multiply the result by 100.
This simple formula provides the percent of the slant. If the number exceeds the max slope rating, do not drive the lift on the slope. Instead, winch or hoist the lift across the sloped area.
Keep in mind that max slope ratings can change due to ground conditions and weather. For example, mud or loose gravel can reduce traction and extend stopping distances.
Driving speeds need to be reduced when crossing sloped or rough terrain as well. Proceed with caution why you drive a boom lift on a slope near drop-offs or cliffs.
Other Considerations When You Use a Boom Lift on a Slope or Uneven Terrain
A boom lift should never be used in winds that exceed 28 mph. When in doubt about whether to operate a boom lift in high wind conditions, use your best judgement, and always err on the side of caution.
Furthermore, you should always check a worksite for overhead hazards, such as overhangs or high-voltage power lines. As a general rule of thumb, stay at least 50 feet away from electrical wires on steel towers and 30 feet away from wires on wooden or concrete poles.
Tips for Safely Using a Boom Lift on a Slope
There are many things that you can do to safely use a boom lift on a slope, such as:
✓ Use a pre-operation checklist to inspect a lift before you use it.
✓ Make sure a lift’s tires are inflated to the proper pressure, as low or high pressure can impact a lift’s stability.
✓ Check the surrounding area for un-compacted fill, ditches, and holes and address these issues before you begin work.
✓ Only use a lift designed to climb slopes.
✓ Check the weather report before you start work; if inclement weather is on the horizon, you need to plan accordingly.
✓ Make sure operators and ground workers are trained and certified to use a boom lift.
A boom lift safety training course can make a world of difference. By receiving boom lift safety training, you can learn how to properly operate a boom lift on slopes, lower your risk of boom lift accidents, and more.
Can You Use a Scissor Lift on a Slope?
Most people in the AWP industry strongly advise against using a scissor lift on a slope. But, some scissor lifts can be used on an incline. In this case, it may be safe to use them on a slope — as long as you don’t exceed the scissor lift’s maximum working angle.
The max working angle may be listed on a scissor lift’s ID plate. Or, it may be marked by a decal on the platform. You can always find it in the operator’s manual, too. And if your scissor lift is not rated for an angle, it should only be used on firm, level ground.
How to Safely Use a Scissor Lift on a Slope
Before using a scissor lift on a slope, inspect your worksite for any other hazards besides the slope. Other safety tips include:
✓ Read the operator’s manual and follow all guidelines for driving or working on slopes.
✓ Never raise or extend the platform unless the lift is on a firm, level surface.
✓ Don’t drive on a slope unless you know the angle.
✓ Limit the speed according to the surface traction of the slope.
✓ Never exceed the maximum slope rating for the lift.
✓ Plan for extra braking distance on slick or unstable surfaces.
✓ Never use a driver who has not been trained on how to use a scissor lift on a slope.
Finally, when using a boom lift on a slope, articulating lifts are often the preferred choice. Either way, the platform should only be raised when on a firm surface. Operators should also take extra precautions when working near drop-offs, and only trained and certified workers should use a boom lift on a slope.
Using Outriggers with a Scissor Lift
Outriggers can improve safety with a scissor lift, especially on inclines. The outriggers provide a wider base, allowing it to stand on the feet of the outrigger along with its own wheels. The result is increased stability and a reduced risk for a tip-over. You can even add outrigger boards under the outrigger to increase stability further. Another purpose of the outriggers is to allow the scissor lift to carry a heavier load.
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