Aerial Lift Safety

Sometimes the solution that seems like a “no-brainer” turns out to be dangerous, expensive and maybe not the best idea.

After you’ve watched the custodian climb his jerry rigged scaffold-and-ladder combination to change the spotlight over the main altar, or witnessed the high school drama club move a huge backdrop into place with wobbly rollers and colorful language, it’s tempting to agree to rent an aerial lift the next time. Please think carefully before you sign the rental papers!

Aerial lifts are vehicle-mounted devices that generally include either an extendable boom platform or ladder. Some have both. They are professional construction tools and not designed for casual use. Operators must be properly trained and certified.

Training must be conducted by a qualified person, according to OSHA regulations, and should include the following:

  • Explanation of the hazards associated with aerial lift operation, including tip-overs, electrocution and falls from the lift platform.
  • Procedures for addressing and reducing hazards.
  • Instruction on proper operation of the lift, including maximum intended capacity of the lift.
  • Demonstration of proficiency in safely operating the lift before operation at the intended site.
  • Instruction on how to operate the lift according to the manufacturer’s requirements.
  • How to conduct an equipment inspection and maintain the equipment, especially if your parish plans to rent frequently or purchase a lift.

Contractual Considerations

There are inherent risks associated with aerial lifts. If you have a trained and certified operator and decide to rent a lift, make sure you follow these procedures before you sign a rental contract:

  • Review the maintenance history of the aerial lift.
  • Confirm maintenance on the lift is up-to-date by requiring a thorough maintenance inspection.
  • Procure operator’s and owner’s manuals.
  • Make sure all operator controls are properly marked and easily accessible.
  • Confirm that all potential operators are trained and certified in the proper use of the equipment.

Safety Precautions

Once on-site, the operator can prevent the most common aerial lift accidents by surveying the work area before beginning the job. Take these safety precautions:

  • Inspect the work area for holes, trenches, depressions, debris and shifting ground. The lift will tip over if the operator tries to ford such obstacles.
  • Stabilize the aerial lift before it is used. Never elevate the lift onto a platform or staging.
  • Perform a pre-start inspection before every use.
  • Recognize that rapid movement of the machine or the lift when the platform is fully extended will destabilize the lift.
  • Look up: Confirm there are no overhead hazards, such as power lines, beams or low ceilings that could harm operators.
  • Consider the effect of wind. A breeze strong enough to cause small leafy trees to sway is too strong for the safe operation of an aerial lift.
  • Always operate the lift according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not use a lift as a crane.
  • Prevent falls by requiring the operator to keep both feet on the platform and refrain from climbing on, or over-reaching, the guardrails.
  • Secure the worker to the lift if the lift is equipped with a fall arrest anchorage point.
  • In addition to the operator, use a buddy system. Have an individual on the ground to spot for you.

If you plan to rent an aerial lift, you must contact the Office of Risk Management for training and to get proof that you carry enough general liability and workers’ compensation coverage in the event of an accident. Please include a copy of the proposed rental agreement for ORM to review the indemnity language and determine if the rental company must be named as an additional insured.

Aerial lifts make many parish and school jobs easier, but they must be used only by trained and certified operators – which may or may not include the summer handyman or the student stage manager.