Scissor lifts have become an indispensable tool for use on job sites as well as public and private venues where a reliable elevated platform is needed. Their efficiency over ladders and scaffolding make scissor lifts a superior choice for many contractors. However, when used improperly or recklessly they can cause serious accidents and injuries.
Over a one-year period, OSHA investigated ten preventable fatalities and more than 20 preventable injuries resulting from a variety of incidents involving scissor lifts. OSHA’s investigations found that most injuries and fatalities involving scissor lifts were the result of employers not addressing: Fall Protection; Stabilization; Positioning *
Scissor lifts are required to have guard rails to prevent workers from falls. Those operators or occupants should check the guardrail before working on it. They should only stand on the platform, not the rails and keep work within a manageable reach.
One untrained operator of a scissor lift was killed in 2020 when attempting to film a football game. He had extended the lift over 39 feet while wind was gusting up to 50 mph. The winds blew the lift over and killed him.*
Stability is of the utmost importance to the safe use of a scissor lift. Manufacturer’s recommendations for safe movement are vital. This most often excludes moving the lift while it’s elevated. Level surfaces are essential, and avoiding use in poor weather is advised. Be sure that vehicles are prevented from coming close to the scissor lift. Tip-overs can happen in the blink of an eye.
Collapse of a scissor lift is rare but it is still very important to heed load limits. Also never bypass safety mechanisms or raise the platform with another machine – like a forklift.
Operators must be careful to position the scissor lift in a way that avoids risk of electrocution,
thermal, burns or arc flashes. Avoid positioning near power lines, electrocution can happen without direct physical contact.
Scissor lifts also present similar hazards to other kinds of vehicles including crushing hazards or impact hazards. Care needs to be taken when moving underneath a fixed object.
Of course the best way to ensure safe scissor lift usage is to make sure operators are trained to the current standards on the particular equipment they are using.
Operators should do a pre-start Inspection before each use. That includes inspection of:
- Proper fluid levels (oil, hydraulic, fuel and coolant);
- Leaks of fluids;
- Wheels and tires;
- Battery and charger;
- Lower-level controls;
- Horn, gauges, lights and backup alarms;
- Steering and brakes.
- Operating and emergency controls;
- Personal protective devices;
- Hydraulic, air, pneumatic, fuel and electrical systems;
- Fiberglass and other insulating components;
- Missing or unreadable placards, warnings, or operational, instructional and control markings;
- Mechanical fasteners and locking pins;
- Cable and wiring harnesses;
- Outriggers, stabilizers and other structures;
- Loose or missing parts;
- Guardrail systems. **
Sadly many workers are killed and injured every year while using aerial lifts like scissor lifts. With proper training and reinforcement of safety protocols by management there should be fewer and fewer such incidents.
Scissor lifts are powerfully effective and efficient tools and are now indispensable in a multitude of settings. Familiarity with safety protocols is a small price for the advantages gained.