When used properly, scissor lifts can provide a safe, efficient, and reliable platform for your employees working at heights. When not used properly, your employees are at risk of serious injury and even death.

Many scissor lift injuries have occurred because workers cut corners in hopes of saving time. Some examples include climbing on the rails that surround the platform, standing on ladders or buckets to gain extra height, and by relocating the lift before lowering it so workers can exit.

In one case, a scissor lift operator drove a fully-extended lift off a concrete pad causing it to lose balance and tip over. Two workers in the platform fell to the ground, each suffering multiple fractures and requiring hospitalization.

As the employer, remind your workers to follow all safety regulations and that it’s okay to take the extra time, especially if it means keeping everyone safe.

What your employees need to know

All work must be performed standing with both feet firmly on the platform.

  • Workers should never stand on the guardrails and work should be kept within easy reach to avoid any leaning away from the lift.
  • Buckets, step stools, or ladders should never be used in a scissor lift as a way to gain extra height to reach work surfaces.
  • Scissor lifts should be placed in areas where, even if fully extended, they will not come into contact with energized power lines. (Minimum of 10 feet away from power lines).
  • The manufacturer’s instruction manual for each scissor lift has specific guidelines on when and how to move the lift. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this usually rules out moving the lift in an elevated position. Make sure your employees know where to find the manual.
  • Weather conditions are also a factor. Do not use a scissor lift unless wind speeds are below 28 miles per hour.

What your employees need to do

Before work begins, make sure the weather conditions are appropriate. The lift should be parked on stable ground, free from any potential hazards such as holes, slopes, bumps, or debris.

Then, inspect the lift to make sure the guardrails are securely in place and there is no damage to the platform or any other part of the unit.

While on the job, take these additional steps:

  • To avoid leaning over the guardrails, move the entire lift to create a safer and more comfortable working position.
    • Never move the lift when extended or if people are on the platform. Lower the platform first so those working on the platform may exit before it’s moved.
  • To avoid standing on buckets or ladders, have the operator extend the lift so you can reach higher spots.
    • If the lift cannot reach any part of the work area or gets too close to power lines, postpone the work until a safer method can be identified. (For example, a longer lift may be needed or the power company might have to temporarily de-energize the lines).
  • Never exceed the weight limit of the platform identified in the manufacturer’s manual.
  • Provide proper traffic control if the lift is operating near a street, to avoid a collision that might throw workers from the lift.

At your safety meeting

Hands-on training is always a good method to familiarize your employees with mechanical equipment. After demonstrating how to properly set up and use the lift, have your employees take control and get a feel for how the machine works.

Following the demonstration, conduct a site specific hazard analysis with your employees to determine if power lines, wind conditions, unstable surfaces, or other potential dangers exist. Discuss these dangers with them and remind them that it’s okay to stop the work if the conditions are not safe.

Remember to review your emergency plan and make sure everyone knows their responsibilities in case something goes wrong.

Taking the extra time to do things right from the beginning provides a safer workplace for your employees. It also lessens the chance of any work stoppages that will occur in the event someone gets hurt.

 

Resources

OSHA Hazard Alert: Working Safely with Scissor Lifts (printable)
Cal/OSHA Standard 3638 on maximum height for scissor lift travel
Cal/OSHA Standard 3646 on maximum speed of scissor lift travel

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.