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5 Types of Scissor Lifts & Their Uses in Construction

5 Types of Scissor Lifts & Their Uses in Construction

Scissor lifts are essential pieces of equipment that allow workers to reach elevated spaces in warehouses, construction sites and more. There are five types of scissor lifts: hydraulic, diesel, electric, rough terrain and pneumatic. While many scissor lifts operate similarly, it’s essential to pick the right scissor lift for your project.

A scissor lift is an aerial lift that provides a safe, steady enclosure and a rising platform to help workers accomplish precise tasks at high elevations. A scissor lift is a type of construction lift, which is machinery equipped with a platform to elevate workers and loads to high areas. Construction lifts include different types of scissor lifts and boom lifts — however, there are key differences between them. While a scissor lift reaches a shorter height and only moves up and down, it can lift multiple workers at once, making it a more logical and affordable option for projects where height is not a concern. Scissor lifts vary in size, application, and fuel type. Here are the five main types of scissor lifts seen on the worksite.

Table of Contents

Hydraulic Scissor Lifts

Hydraulic scissor lifts are powered by hand-operated or engine-driven hydraulic systems. The changing pressure of the hydraulic oil in the machine helps to operate the lift and move the platform up and down. Since a hydraulic scissor lift is relatively easy to operate, users aren’t required to undergo much training, making it a simple option when you have lifting needs.

Since oil becomes more viscous in lower temperatures, hydraulic scissor lifts are much slower to operate in colder weather. Although this issue has been addressed in newer models, hydraulic scissor lifts are generally best suited for projects where speed and horsepower are not priorities.


Diesel Scissor Lifts

Diesel scissor lifts are among the most commonly used lifts on construction sites. Their signature cross-braced system allows them to reach a height of 30 feet, with advanced models extending as high as 60 feet.

Since diesel fuel powers these lifts, they are noisy and emit fumes into the environment. Therefore, they are reserved for outdoor construction sites or areas where ventilation is present and noise can dissipate. Their hefty design also provides them with a larger aerial platform.


Electric Scissor Lifts

Electric scissor lifts are another popular aerial platform machine. An alternative to burning fuel, electric scissor lifts feature a silent, powered drive mechanism. Since they do not emit fumes or noise, electric scissor lifts provide a cleaner solution for indoor spaces, which often have insufficient ventilation. These machines are also less bulky than their diesel counterparts, making them optimal for smaller spaces.


Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts

Rough terrain scissor lifts are also designed exclusively for outdoor terrain. They come equipped with a high-weight capacity, heavy-duty tires and additional safety mechanisms like fall restraints and arrestors. This makes them ideal for work sites with uneven surfaces and slopes and projects occurring in inclement weather.

Rough terrain scissor lifts can provide elevation of up to 50 feet and widths of up to 10 feet. The machines are powered by diesel, gas, liquid propane or dual fuel.


Pneumatic Scissor Lifts

Pneumatic scissor lifts use air pressure as their lifting mechanism. Compared to traditional lifts, this lift does not emit hazardous fumes or by-products into the environment, making it a more sustainable option for companies looking to minimize their carbon footprint.

A pneumatic scissor lift vacuums and compresses atmospheric air to raise and lower the platform. Since they have no fuel, they do not provide as much power as a rough terrain or diesel lift, however, the machinery can be used in almost any environment, including indoor facilities.


Scissor Lift FAQ

If you’re weighing your options and wondering if a scissor lift is best for you, keep reading to find more information with the answers to these frequently asked questions or check out our free e-book guide.


Download our FREE scissor lift rental guide e-book today!

What Is the Difference Between a Scissor Lift and a Boom Lift?

It’s easy to determine the difference between a scissor lift and a boom lift when you see them. For example, you’ll notice a scissor lift platform only moves up and down while a boom lift can also move forward, backward, left and right. However, there are some other fundamental differences that make one better for a job than the other and vice versa.

A scissor lift has:

  • A more spacious platform
  • The ability to only move vertically
  • Better stability
  • A higher weight capacity
  • More uses in indoor tasks

A boom lift has:

  • A smaller platform
  • More precise maneuverability
  • An extended arm reach
  • A lower weight capacity
  • More uses in outdoor tasks

How Do You Operate a Scissor Lift?

Operating a scissor lift is a straightforward task, but you must always familiarize yourself with all its controls and take proper safety precautions. Here is a quick breakdown of how to operate a scissor lift in 6 steps:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the controls. Before you start, review the manufacturer’s handbook and get familiar with the model you’re using. Inspect the control panel and identify its different functions, including the joystick and emergency stop buttons.
  2. Take safety precautions and conduct a safety test. Wear appropriate safety equipment and conduct a safety inspection. Make sure the lift is in proper working condition. If you notice leaks, malfunctions or other damage, report it to a supervisor immediately. If there are no safety concerns, you may continue operating.
  3. Turn on the scissor lift. Disengage the emergency stop buttons to activate the controls.
  4. Position the scissor lift. You’ll need to switch on “drive mode” so you can place your scissor lift in the correct position. Once the drive mode is engaged, use the joystick to move forward, backward, left and right.
  5. Situate the platform. Once you’re in the correct area, switch off drive mode and use the joystick to control its height. Check for any overhead obstructions and note where you should plan to stop before you begin raising the platform. Pull back on the joystick to raise the platform and forward to lower it.
  6. Turn off the scissor lift when done. Once you finish with the lift, make sure you’ve lowered the platform to its lowest position, then engage any safety mechanisms. Now you can shut down the lift using the emergency stop button and exit safely. Always be sure to plug it in to recharge or refuel it at the end of the day so it’s ready for the next.

What are OSHA Standards for Operating a Scissor Lift?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has clear guidelines for operating or working near a scissor lift. Employers are responsible for adhering to the following scissor lift safety standards and tips:

  • Scissor lifts must have guardrails to prevent falling.
  • Ensure that scissor lifts are stable and will not tip over or collapse.
  • Position the scissor lift to avoid crushing or electrocution hazards.
  • If the job requires work near an electrical source, ensure that the worker has electrical training.
  • Employers must regularly maintain scissor lifts to ensure their safety.
  • Employers must provide workers training on how to work safely with or near scissor lifts.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information, check the OSHA website.

What Kind of Scissor Lift Do You Need for Your Project?

Choosing the right scissor lift is crucial to satisfying your project needs. In addition to the terrain conditions and power supply explained in the scissor lift types, you’ll also want to consider factors such as the weight of what you want to lift, lift strength and height, the stability of the load, loading method and your desired platform size.


All these factors impact each other and must all be considered part of the equation when selecting a scissor lift. For more information, check out our guide on figuring out which scissor lift is right for you.

Whether you need a scissor lift, boom lift or any other aerial equipment, BigRentz has what you need. We have various types of scissor lifts and more ready for rental. And with locations in all 50 states and easy, hassle-free delivery to your worksite, BigRentz is here to help you complete your job efficiently.

Check out our selection of scissor lifts and other aerial lifts available for rent near you!


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