A harness, or personal fall restraint system, is critical to workplace safety when working on an elevated scissor lift. It’s the last line of defense for employees working in a dangerous environment. A harness is an important safety device and is a big part of any scissor lift certification program.
But what are the OSHA requirements around wearing a harness? When should operators wear a harness, and what drawbacks come from this type of protective gear? Do you need to provide training for employees using fall protection systems?
We answer common questions and explain OSHA regulations with this comprehensive guide.
Table of Contents
Do You Need to Wear Fall Protection in a Scissor Lift?
Scissor lifts are often considered a type of scaffolding rather than being used as an aerial lift. However, this depends on the elevation. Some models use a work platform that rises only a few feet, but other models can extend significantly higher, creating a higher risk of tip-overs and hazardous falls.
OSHA’s general requirements for employers in the construction industry are that workers should have some type of fall protection system in place if they’re working at an elevation greater than 6 feet from the ground. Harnesses form a critical part of this system, as well as adequate anchor points and properly-designed platforms.
What Fall Protection Should Scissor Lift Operators Use?
Several types of protection can help to protect employees. Not all are mandated by OSHA, but it’s best practice to keep your workers as safe as possible. This reduces the risk of serious falls, which can lead to fines from OSHA as well as potential lawsuits from injured parties.
The most essential fall protection device is a properly maintained guardrail system. Guardrail systems should be regularly inspected to ensure they’re secured to the platform and high enough to prevent operators from falling overboard.
Guardrail systems meeting OSHA’s requirements are vital for all MEWPs (mobile elevating work platforms). Even if the equipment is only raised a few feet from the ground, a guardrail system is the foundation of scissor lift occupational safety.
Hard hats are a simple, cost-effective piece of fall protection gear and are just as important as a sound guardrail system. Scissor lift operators should always wear a hard hat for safety when working on or around MEWPs, even if they’re not on the platform.
Safety harnesses can be attached to an anchor point to keep operators safe when working at a height. OSHA require this type of system to be in place when there’s a chance of free fall from 6 feet or more. Falling is a leading cause of injury and death in the workplace and OSHA takes it extremely seriously.
While harnesses don’t prevent falls, they minimize the risk of even greater injury to operators if they fall or jump clear of the platform. Wearing a full-body harness protects against the risk of falling due to faulty equipment or slippery platforms.
Most scissor lifts are used as scaffolding against the side of buildings. This is important to note when considering a safe anchor point, the other essential component of a safety harness.
OSHA prohibits tying a scissor lift fall protection device to the platform itself. The platform isn’t sufficiently stable to hold the weight of a falling scissor lift operator, which could endanger other individuals as it increases the risk of a tip-over.
Tying a fall restraint system to guardrails creates a false sense of security and doesn’t ensure that the worker is protected. The anchor point for this type of fall protection equipment should be a solid surface, e.g., the building adjacent to the scissor lift.
Safety boots are vital for scissor lift fall protection, especially when working in wet or windy conditions. A fall arrest system should be in place in case a worker leaves the scissor lift and falls, but proper footwear minimizes the chance of an accident occurring in the first place.
What are OSHA’s Guidelines for Wearing a Safety Harness in a Scissor Lift?
OSHA mandates that operators should be wearing a harness if they’re working at a height of over 6 feet. Besides a good guardrail system, this type of additional fall protection device is the best way to maintain safety in the workplace and prevent accidents before they happen.
When Does a Scissor Lift Operator Need a Harness? Training Advice
Proper safety training should also be provided to any operator required to use a harness. Scissor lift operators should understand where safe anchor points should be located and that they should never attach the harness to the guardrails.
OSHA-compliant training for wearing harnesses on scissor lifts are very inexpensive. OSHA-compliant safety videos are cheap and provide standardized safety training for all staff, ensuring they understand how to follow best practices and raise concerns wherever they see them. Making sure your operators are trained and have met the OSHA requirements to operate the scissor lift, is critical.
Ensuring that your scissor lift operators are properly trained to use a safety harness and other fall protection measures will guarantee they’re protected at work and that your business is protected from OSHA fines and potential lawsuits for unsafe working conditions. It’s a small investment that more than pays itself back over time.
At What Height is a Harness Required on a Scissor Lift?
If an operator is working at a height under 6ft, then simple measures such as guardrails and a hard hat will suffice. OSHA mandates that scissor lift operators wear a harness if there’s a chance of a fall greater than 6ft (in a construction environment).
The conditions of any job should be assessed by a properly trained member of staff at the beginning of each day, along with the condition of the equipment. It’s so important that workers have received proper training, as this will enable them to make the right call each time and get on with the job.
Scissor Lifts vs. Aerial Lift Fall Protection
A scissor lift is often considered distinct from an aerial lift, even though they’re both MEWPs. This is because many scissor lifts only elevate a few feet from the ground (although many can go much higher). An aerial lift can reach much higher, and it’s virtually always the case that workers should have fall protection gear like harnesses when working.
It’s important to understand the differences when using any lift. Just because you’ve completed safety training for a scissor lift, it doesn’t mean that you’re trained to assess hazards on all types of aerial platforms. Workers should be trained properly for each type of MEWP.
Other Times You Need to Wear a Harness in a Scissor Lift
Even though falls of 6ft or less don’t require a harness, you should consider your work environment. If the ground beneath is particularly uneven or hazardous (e.g., it might include broken glass or sharp metal objects), then fall protection can make a huge difference. There are some things you don’t want to land on from any height.
Using Personal Fall Arrest Systems on Scissor Lifts: Best Practices
Since you need to be trained to use a scissor lift BEFORE you use one, it’s important to use OSHA-compliant training so that your staff understands when a harness and equipment is required. This protects your business against OSHA fines and minimizes a staff member’s chance of suffering a severe injury. It also speeds up your work processes, as staff can make safety assessments independently and get on with what they’re best at!