Personnel Lifts

Personnel Lifts

There are many situations in which a worker is required to construct, maintain, or troubleshoot a piece of equipment that is located well above normally accessible heights. In some cases a ladder suffices. In other more long term projects, scaffolding is a good choice. But in many cases in which a temporary and flexible solution for accessing a working location is necessary, personnel lifts are the best option available.

The industries that use personnel lifts (otherwise known as aerial work platforms, cherry pickers, or scissor lifts) are as varied as the types of work that they make possible. Utility companies access overhead lines using personnel lifts. Industrial companies use them to maintain and install equipment. They are used in construction and they are helpful for both indoor and outdoor building maintenance. They are also used by firefighters to rescue people and extinguish fires.

The two main types of lifts are articulating lifts and scissor lifts. Articulating lifts employ either a crane-like boom or a jointed arm to extend the worker to the appropriate height. They are able to travel vertically, can be tilted, and can be rotated, and therefore provide the most flexibility of use. Scissor lifts can only be extended vertically but are more than adequate for many tasks.

The base of a personnel lift is very important to safety of the worker. Some bases can be controlled and moved along the ground by the operator while in use, whereas others are vehicle mounted for mobility. The bases of some lifts are stationary because they require outriggers to create a strong foundation (similarly to a crane.)

The safety hazards of a personnel lift are very similar to those of scaffolding. Fall hazards, tools falling from the work platform, and structural collapse are shared hazards. However, lifts come with additional hazards such as; tip-over potential, contact with objects or a ceiling, electrocution by contact with overhead lines, and entanglement (in trees, machinery, or overhead lines.).

Here are some methods that personnel lift operators can take to prevent some safety hazards:

  • Fall Hazards. Operators should tie off to the lift using a safety harness so that they do not fall from the work platform. Railing systems are also installed on all work platforms to prevent falls.
  • Tip-over Hazards. Placing the base of the lift on a solid foundation is the primary way to prevent tip overs. Outriggers should be placed on flat and solid ground, avoiding any ditches or holes. If the foundation surface is slanted, counterweights and wheel chocks can be used. Some lifts are equipped with sensors that will not allow the lift to be extended past a certain point if they detect an imbalance in the work platform. Lifts should not be operated in winds higher than recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Contacting Overhead Lines or Other Equipment. Electrocution hazards need to be addressed by ensuring that personnel and the lift are isolated from potential grounding. Fiberglass lifts can be used in order to prevent accidentally contacting a live wire.
  • Entanglement Hazards. Lifts are operated by the worker in the work platform. This allows the worker who is closest to the hazards to control where the platform moves. Operation from the ground should be avoided unless it is an emergency situation.
  • Structural Collapse or System Failure. Component failure risks can be mitigated by proper inspection of lift components prior to use and by operating the lift in accordance with its rated load capabilities.

There are many emergency safety features built into personnel lifts but even so there are very real hazards associated with using their use. Proper maintenance, training, and operation are crucial to the safety of the workers using any of the various personnel lifts available.

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