A scissor lift is an aerial lift work platform used to move people and materials up and down. It’s used in applications like hanging signs, fixing power lines, and other maintenance tasks, and can handle any job that would require a ladder, tower, or scaffolding.
Scissor lifts get their name from their design. They’re made up of crisscrossing braces, called a pantograph, that compress and extend vertically. The work platform can hold multiple people at once, unlike other types of lifts, as man lifts, that can only hold one at a time.
Like with any heavy-duty piece of equipment, there are safety hazards that come with using a scissor lift. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the most frequent injuries involving scissor lifts are from:
- No fall protection
- Not stabilizing the lift
- Positioning the scissor lift incorrectly
To prevent potential injuries and fatalities, you have to make sure you operate your scissor lift correctly. In this guide, we go over OSHA and ANSI’s scissor lift safety guidelines so that you can take the proper precautions when using your lift.
OSHA and ANSI’s Scissor Lift Safety Guidelines
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a government organization that was created to ensure safe working conditions for workers and enforce safety practices and standards. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, nonprofit organization that oversees any fair standard development.
These organizations work together to promote workplace safety, though their responsibilities are not the same. OSHA has the authority to develop and enforce safety and health standards while ANSI acts on voluntary “consensus” standards.
Both have requirements for scissor lift safety, offering the most comprehensive guidelines on the safe operation of scissor lifts.
Scissor Lifts Must Have Guardrails
According to OSHA standard 1926.451, employees must check if a scissor lift has a proper guardrail system in place to prevent workers from falling. If a guardrail system is not in adequate condition, additional fall protection devices must be used during operation, such as a safety harness.
To prevent fall accidents, employees should:
- Check to see that a guardrail system is in place before working on the scissor lift.
- Only stand on the work platform and never stand on the guardrails.
- Keep work within easy reach to avoid leaning away from the scissor lift.
Scissor Lifts Must Be Stable Before Operating
High winds, holes, slopes, or getting knocked by another object or machine can cause a scissor lift to be unsteady and fall over. ANSI standard MH-29-2020 states that employees must ensure scissor lifts are stable, protected from any potential hazards.
To stabilize a scissor lift:
- Select work locations with firm, level surfaces, away from hazards that can cause instability.
- Only use outdoor scissor lifts in good weather conditions, with wind speeds that are under 28 miles per hour.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe movement.
Scissor Lifts Must Be Positioned Correctly
When positioned improperly, scissor lifts can cause crushing and electrocution accidents if they’re tipped over or bumped into another machine. OSHA standards state that you must position scissor lifts carefully in clear zones with plenty of room to operate. It’s especially when working on electrical lines, where electricity can arc or jump from the power line to the lift or worker.
Here are some things to be aware of when positioning the lift:
- Be watchful when the scissor lift is near obstructions on the job site, like a fixed object, moving vehicle, or another piece of equipment.
- Implement traffic control measures to prevent workers and vehicles from getting too close while the lift is in use.
- Select work locations that are at least 10 feet away from power sources (like power lines, transformers, other electrical sources, and so on) and that don’t pose other overhead hazards (like other utilities, branches, door frames, overhangs, and so on).
Scissor Lifts Must Be Regularly Maintained
According to OSHA, to prevent any of the machine’s lifting mechanisms from collapsing or malfunctioning, scissor lifts should be regularly inspected. This ensures all parts of the scissor lift are working properly and are in good repair.
To make sure your scissor lift is well-maintained and safe to use:
- Test and inspect controls and components before each use.
- Ensure that guardrail systems are in good working condition.
- Verify that brakes, once set, will hold the scissor lift in position.
Scissor Lift Safety Tips
In addition to OSHA and ANSI guidelines, there are other safe work practices to keep in mind. Here is some additional scissor lift safety tips to incorporate into your lift safety training and keep your workers safe.
Select the Correct Type of Scissor Lift
Scissor lifts come in a variety of different types, such as electric, rough terrain, pneumatic, diesel, or hydraulic. It’s important to find the right scissor lift for your specific worksite, not only to ensure it does what you need but also to keep your scissor lift operators safe.
If you work outdoors, a rough terrain lift is probably ideal. If you’re doing indoor maintenance, an electric lift might be your best bet.
Check the Manufacturer’s Load and Reach Capacity
Before operating the scissor lift, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for details like weight limits, load rating, and reach limits. Exceeding your lift’s load or reach capacity can cause it to become unstable or tip over.
Evaluate the Job Site’s Environment and Conditions
Before you begin work, examine your work area’s conditions to see what safety hazards you might run into. For outdoor worksites, this could include holes, pits, uneven terrain, and weather conditions. For indoor worksites, this could include overhead hazards, bumps, or other obstructions.
Do You Need a Safety Harness on a Scissor Lift?
OSHA requires you to wear a fall protection device when the guardrail system is not in adequate condition or when the worker is walking off the lift.
While you may not always be required to wear a safety harness while operating a scissor lift, it is a good piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) to use as a failsafe for extra fall protection in case something goes wrong.
Do You Need a Certification to Use a Scissor Lift?
OSHA has no specific regulations requiring scissor lift operators to be licensed. However, the agency says that only trained workers are permitted to use a scissor lift.
Under OSHA guidelines, employers provide comprehensive scissor lift training to employees, including the correct procedures to operate the lift, worksite hazards when working on a scissor lift, and how to handle materials on a scissor lift.
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