If you use scissor lifts in your workplace, worker safety has to be your #1 priority. Operating a scissor lift safely is a job for a trained professional, but every employee working in the vicinity of a scissor lift needs safety training for this particular practice. Getting your employees into a scissor lift certification program is critical to their safety and to the regulatory compliance of your own company.
The scissor lift safety tips below provide a framework for safely operating this useful machine. We include guidance on PPE, operational hazards, inspections, fall protection, and more. Use these tips to augment the OSHA-compliant training program in your workplace and keep your workforce safe.
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How Safe is a Scissor Lift?
Scissor lift accidents are somewhat common in the workplace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS notes that the construction sector encounters a very high rate of workplace accidents compared to many other industries. A large proportion of construction accidents are caused by falls, especially from 6 feet or higher.
Scissor lifts are often used at heights lower than this and are considered less risky than aerial lifts, which can extend to much greater heights. However, a scissor lift can easily reach heights well above 6 feet. For this reason, safety systems must be in place to ensure that operators, workers on the platform, and passers-by are protected from scissor lift injuries.
14 Scissor Lift Safety Tips for Your Workplace
We’ve put together 14 essential scissor lift safety tips to illustrate points you’ll find in OSHA-compliant scissor lift training materials. It’s important to remember that these augment the scissor lift safety rules outlined by OSHA in training programs – this guide isn’t a replacement! However, these points can help you and your staff remember best practices and prevent accidents in your workplace. (We also have a Scissor Lift Toolbox Talk for you to use also).
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Ensure All Scissor Lift Operators Are Trained
All scissor lift operators should be properly trained using training materials that are:
- Designed for the type of equipment they’ll be using
- Remember that a scissor lift isn’t the same as an aerial lift. The OSHA scissor lift requirements are separate from its aerial lift requirements, and the skills aren’t necessarily interchangeable – operators need training for both. Supervisors and operators assuming that “they can figure it out” is a leading cause of preventable accidents.
- Proper training should be refreshed every three years, according to OSHA. However, refresher training can be implemented at any time if you believe that operators need extra guidance on how to use a scissor lift safely, have been involved with an accident, or the work area and/or conditions have changed.
- High-quality scissor lift safety training is the #1 way to prevent accidents and improve workplace safety. Make sure you’re using the best materials, and everyone can access them.
2. Inspect Scissor Lifts Daily
Equipment should be inspected every day before use. Areas for inspection should include:
- The hydraulic lifting system
- The battery
- Emergency systems
- Lights, horns, & alarms
- The brakes
- The guardrail system
- The work platform
- Any other equipment that needs to be used
A trained scissor lift operator should perform this inspection. If any of these areas are found to be compromised, and there’s no immediate fix, the equipment should be taken out of commission until maintenance can be completed.
Scissor lift safety depends on the equipment being well-maintained and functional. Factors like having the right equipment and traffic control are irrelevant if the vehicle could malfunction at any moment.
3. Use Fall Protection Systems
Proper fall protection systems should be in place. Safety harnesses connected to secure anchor points should be worn if workers operate at a height above 6 feet. The guardrail should be inspected daily and checked for faults – any loose parts should be reported and repaired before employees set foot on the work platform.
Safety nets are sometimes used for mobile scaffolding. While these fall protection measures are more common for boom lifts and cranes, you should assess whether these safety systems would be appropriate based on work locations and ground conditions.
4. Provide PPE for Staff
Essential personal protective equipment should be provided to all workers. This includes:
- Hard hats – these are essential when working around scissor lifts.
- Non-slip footwear – this significantly reduces the risk of falls.
- Electrical protection – if workers are operating around power lines or another electrical source, proper electrical protective controls and gear should be provided.
- Body harnesses – safety harnesses should be provided where appropriate.
- Safety goggles – these protect workers against dust and debris. Impaired vision can lead to a fall.
- High-visibility clothing – this is essential on any job site.
Employers should always provide adequate PPE for staff and training on how to use it. Workers should also be able to raise concerns about necessary PPE if they feel they don’t have the right equipment.
5. Ensure the Work Platform is Clean Before Use
The work platform should be cleaned routinely to ensure it’s safe to use. Slip and trip hazards should be identified and removed from the work platform, while the guard rails should also be cleaned frequently. This is especially important when working outdoors in muddy conditions.
6. Schedule Regular Inspections
The equipment should receive a complete inspection every three months or after 150 hours of use – whichever comes first. This inspection should be performed by scissor lift operators with the appropriate technical training.
The inspection should cover all areas checked daily as well as the mechanical aspects of the lift.
Does the work platform sit evenly when the mechanism’s crossed beams extend in a scissor-like fashion? Is there rust damage anywhere? Is the motor operational?
These inspections are critical and proper maintenance should be scheduled if any faults are identified.
7. Implement Traffic Control Measures
Wherever you’re operating a scissor lift, you should implement traffic control measures to ensure that other workers and passers-by are protected. Signs should indicate safety hazards such as loose power lines to other workers, and nobody should be allowed near the site without PPE.
Hazard warnings and protective barriers should indicate hazardous work locations to pedestrians. This should be reinforced by ground guides who can redirect unsuspecting pedestrian traffic.
8. Ensure Only Trained Workers Operate Near Electrical Power Sources
Only training electrical operatives should be on the work platform when working with an electrical source such as power lines. They should be provided with PPE specific to electrical workers, such as heavy-duty gloves and shock-resistant footwear. Only trained electrical staff should handle materials that pose a risk of electric shocks.
9. Use a Ground Spotter to Identify Hazards
Ground guides are a vital part of scissor lift safety. Spotters can remove ground obstructions and ensure that the vehicle is stable. They can also identify other overhead hazards that staff on the work platform might not be able to see.
10. Never Use the Guardrail System as an Anchor Point
A fixed object should be used as an anchor point. The guardrail can’t offer the necessary support – if a safety harness is attached to the rail, it can unbalance the platform’s weight limits and increase the risk of tip-overs.
Potential anchor points like walls, door frames, and ceiling beams should be inspected thoroughly before use. Only sturdy fixed objects should be used as anchor points.
11. Monitor Environmental Hazards
This is one of the most important scissor lift safety tips. Don’t just check the machinery – check where you’ve parked it.
Scissor lift stabilization and lift positioning are essential for preventing scissor lift accidents. When the work platform is raised or performing drop-offs, it should only be parked on level surfaces. Its fall protection stabilization positioning may be compromised if it’s on uneven ground.
The machinery should be a stationary object. Though it’s a piece of moving equipment, this should generally be limited to times when no workers are on the platform – this is one of the top scissor lift safety rules.
In addition to parking on level surfaces, monitoring weather conditions such as wind speeds is vital. High wind speeds could lead to tipovers – check the operator’s manual to understand the weather conditions in which your equipment can operate.
12. Update Workers on the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Scissor lift training should cover the basic rules of all scissor lifts, but employers should also keep workers up-to-date with the manufacturer’s instructions. Different lifts have different weight limits, and overloading is a significant scissor lift safety violation.
Always refer workers to the manufacturer’s instructions before they use new equipment. Scissor lifts aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
13. Schedule Annual Inspections from a Qualified Engineer
Besides frequent inspections from a trained operator, OSHA states that a scissor lift should be inspected annually by a qualified engineer. You should book this inspection in good time so your equipment isn’t taken out of service while you wait for the engineer’s visit.
Routine inspections allow regular maintenance but are generally limited to operational functions. A specialist engineer will provide a comprehensive assessment and recommend action where appropriate.
14. Use OSHA-Compliant Training Materials
Scissor lift certification training should always meet OSHA Standards. Like any other equipment, scissor lifts are subject to OSHA and ANSI guidelines. Failure to comply with these guidelines could result in fines or even lawsuits if employees have been exposed to unsafe working conditions.
OSHA compliant training videos are generally the most effective and affordable way to provide scissor lift instruction to your employees. High-quality videos include all the information covered in these scissor lift safety tips and comply fully with OSHA’s requirements – it’s the best way to protect your workers and your business.
Other Important Scissor Lift Safety Considerations
A scissor lift is an extremely large and heavy piece of machinery that frequently operates in dangerous conditions. It needs to be treated with respect, and only trained personnel should work on or around scissor lifts.
Workers should be able to report safety violations wherever they observe them. It should also be easy for workers to request PPE and report faulty equipment to supervisors – overlooking issues leads to accidents.
Here are a few extra safety considerations for scissor lift operators.
What PPE Is Required for a Scissor Lift?
Essential PPE when using a scissor lift includes hard hats, non-slip footwear, and high-visibility clothing. Workers may also require harnesses based on the height of the platform – if there’s a chance of falling over 6ft from the platform’s edge, OSHA requires operators to wear harnesses.
Seatbelts for operators are another undervalued bit of PPE. You should always wear a seatbelt when operating this type of machinery, even if it’s stationary. This could be lifesaving if it overbalances.
What Is the Most Common Scissor Lift Accident?
By far, the most common type of scissor lift accident is falling. Various factors can cause this:
- Slippery work platforms
- Ineffective or loose guardrails
- Insufficient PPE
While the severity of these accidents varies, they’re the leading cause of fatalities associated with MEWPs (mobile elevating work platforms). It’s not worth risking the safety of your workers – ensure that all protective measures are in place and that employees are properly trained before using the equipment.
Do You Need a Spotter When Using a Scissor Lift?
Yes – spotters stand on the ground near the machinery and can identify issues that operators and workers on the platform might overlook. Ground spotters also play an important role in traffic control, diverting pedestrians away from hazardous areas.
Spotters should always be provided with the appropriate PPE, including a hard hat and high-visibility clothing.
Is It a Legal Requirement to Wear a Harness in a Scissor Lift?
OSHA requires workers to wear harnesses if the platform is extended at least 6ft from the ground or if there’s a chance of falling over 6ft. There’s no legal requirement below this limit, although operators can assess whether a harness would be helpful situationally. Harnesses should be attached to a secure anchor point and never to the guardrail.
Keep Your Workers Safe with Our Scissor Lift Safety Tips
Of all our scissor lift safety tips, the most important is to provide workers with comprehensive ANSI compliant training. The best way to achieve this is with training videos.
Video training is cost-effective, saves time, and ensures that nothing is ever missed out. Keep your workers safe and your workplace OSHA-compliant with great tips and proper training!