Safety Regulations for Scissor Lifts

“Aerial lift safety” is often associated with OSHA regulations and accident prevention techniques involving pure aerial lifts – those aerial work platforms (AWPs) where the manned bucket extends beyond the wheelbase. However, scissor lifts (which elevate in a pure vertical matter, with no extension beyond the wheelbase) are also part of aerial lift safety rules. Some employers have a vague concept of scissor lift safety regulations. We wanted to eliminate this gray area of OSHA rules with Tom Wilkerson, CEO of AerialLiftCertification.com. We recently spoke with Mr. Wilkerson about the importance of scissor lift safety regulations, OSHA rules & guidelines, and much more.

Is your company’s safety program aligned with the most recent U.S. Occupational Safety & Health (OSHA) regulations?

If you’re not entirely sure, you’re not alone. Many enterprises consider scissor lifts the same as other mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) like telescoping aerial lifts, cherry pickers and similar equipment.

However, the safety distinctions between scissor lifts and other aerial work platforms (AWPs) – and a proper understanding of these regulations – give any well-orchestrated safety plan a decided advantage, for you and your employees.

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) establishes safety rules and proper operating standards for scissor lifts and other aerial lifts, and it’s in your best interest to know as much as you can about them. After all, you’re ultimately responsible for training and aerial lift certification for all of your employees.

OSHA scissor lift safety rules are outlined and defined in Section 29 CFR 1926.451, which considers all scissor lifts as “scaffolding.” True, they’re not what you’d call typical scaffolding, but OSHA’s definition puts in place the framework to properly operate scissor lifts for a variety of industries and roles, including:

  • Maintenance
  • Construction
  • Landscaping
  • Utilities
  • Manufacturing
  • Cleaning
  • Agriculture
  • Firefighting
  • And many others

While OSHA sets scissor lift safety rules and regulations, it’s up to individual employers to implement them in common sense, easily accessible format. Four key concepts of proper scissor lift usage include lift stabilization, fall protection, safety harnesses, and lift positioning.

Based on these guidelines, here are some safety principles your company can implement NOW to increase safety and decrease the chance of accidents or injuries:

Lift stabilization. Particularly important for outdoor work, scissor lift stability is the literal foundation of a job well done – and a job safely done! In order to optimize lift stability, pay attention to these hazards:

  • Overhead hazards
  • Uneven terrain
  • Nearby equipment/machinery
  • Maintenance issues / faulty equipment
  • Sound hydraulic/electronic function
  • Wind / inclement weather. Strong gusts of wind are able to topple scissor lifts and other AWPs.

Fall protection. According to OSHA safety guidelines, all scissor lifts must have guardrails. Employees should never leave the main working platform to perform work on the guardrails or lean over. With that in mind, this safety tip leads us to the next factor, lift positioning.

Lift positioning. Closely correlated with lift stabilization, proper lift positioning puts your employees in a position to safely succeed on the job. Use extreme caution when a scissor lift is adjacent to:

  • Fixed objects (buildings, ductwork, etc.)
  • Actively operating equipment (other scissor lifts, cranes, trucks, etc.)
  • Potential overhead hazards like doorways, ceilings, etc.)

Safety harnesses. An optional method to prevent falls, safety harnesses keep the scissor lift operator securely tethered to the equipment. Ensure all safety harnesses are regularly inspected and worn according to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications.

Beyond these foundational principles for scissor lift safety, OSHA has a handy, informative Scaffolding e-Tool webpage for safety manager, supervisor, and employee reference. This e-tool includes specific instruction, guidance and other information related to scissor lifts. True to established OSHA safety guidelines for scissor lifts, this page emphasizes the four concepts listed above. The OSHA Scaffolding e-Tool for scissor lifts is a highly recommended reference for everyone from safety consultants to AWP operators and more.

And remember…even though scissor lifts usually don’t extend as high as other AWPs or MEWPs, there are certain safety hazards to consider. OSHA’s own Scissor Lift Safety Hazard bulletin, document OSHA HA-3842 2016, goes into great detail about hazard avoidance, smart safety measures to follow, and other helpful information.

A key aspect of scissor lift safety, and one that every company needs to pay attention to, is proper scissor lift maintenance. Like a (literal) well-oiled machine, properly maintained scissor lifts are integral for any (figurative) well-oiled, smooth-running safety plan. Regular maintenance helps avoid accidents, promotes overall safety and extends the life of your equipment – all smart, money-saving ways to boost productivity while keeping those OSHA auditors and inspectors away!

General maintenance tips:

  • Always operate and maintain scissor lifts to manufacturer general recommendations. ALWAYS read the owner’s manual and operating guides, which usually contain helpful maintenance guidelines.
  • Before each use, always inspect key operational safety devices like lift warnings, lights, safety harnesses, and all major controls, components and safety guards.
  • Ensure brakes are in proper working order. BEFORE elevating workers, verify that locked brakes hold the scissor lift in a stationary position with no movement. This simple check helps save lives!
  • Conduct a rigorous inspection and evaluation of the guide rails (see Fall Protection safety tip above for more information). If any rails or safety guides are compromised, immediately flag the scissor lift and bring it to the attention of your safety supervisor and maintenance/inspection team.

That’s why safety training and OSHA-approved certification is so important for your company. Without OSHA compliance, your workers aren’t legally able to operate scissor lifts, aerial lifts, and other AWPs. All employers are required by law to comply with OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1926.454, which is designed to protect workers from any and all hazards involved with scissor lift use.

One more thing to monitor when creating your own training plan: keep in mind that OSHA regulations change on a regular basis. What’s more, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), another governing body, also has an influence on scissor lift and aerial lift training and certification programs.

It helps to have the right training and certification program in place – like ALC – to stay on top of these important changes. Contact ALC today and improve your safety program!

Tom Wilkerson

About the Author

AerialLiftCertification.com, led by founder and CEO Tom Wilkerson, helps companies with training, OSHA compliance, accident prevention, and other safety initiatives. Thousands of firms rely on ALC for OSHA-approved certification for aerial lifts, scissor lifts, mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), aerial work platforms (AWPs) and similar industrial equipment. With an online-based approach to aerial lift certification, Mr. Wilkerson’s company is one of the most popular training solutions in the United States. ALC offers training, online instruction and hands-on employer skills evaluation for every employee that requires training. ALC’s affordable prices, prompt customer service and deep knowledge of OSHA rules and regulations make it an ideal training and certification option. For more information about AerialLiftCertification.com, please call (888) 278 – 8896 or visit the ALC website.

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