This is your complete guide to scissor lift safety.
Safety is an important factor to consider when operating scissor lifts, like with any other equipment.
So in this article, you’ll learn:
- How safe scissor lifts are
- The top scissor lift hazards
- The laws and rules governing scissor lifts
- Scissor lift safety tips
- And much more!
Let’s dive in!
Is a Scissor Lift an Aerial Lift?
Per OSHA, a scissor lift is technically scaffolding.
More specifically, they’re mobile scaffolding equipped with a platform that only moves vertically.
How High Can Scissor Lifts Go?
The most common lifting heights for scissor lift are 19-feet and 26-feet.
But some models can go higher.
How Much Can a Scissor Lift Lift?
Scissor lifts are not designed to carry loads like a forklift or telehandler is.
Instead, they’re designed to carry only workers, tools, and some light materials.
Thus, their weight lifting capacities are generally limited.
On average, smaller lifts (like 19- and 26-foot models) can lift up to 500 lbs.
But other, heavier-duty scissor lifts can lift up to 4,000 lbs.
Scissor lifts are almost synonymous with construction sites and facility maintenance applications.
But several other jobs use scissor lifts.
Here are some of the industries and tasks that scissor lifts are used for:
- Construction: Electrical, HVAC, plumbing, welding, and drywall work
- Maintenance: Window washing, painting, and changing light bulbs
- Event planning: Lighting setup, hanging signage, and spanning banners
OSHA has several standards that cover scissor lifts.
- 1915.71 – Scaffolds or staging.
- 1926.451 – Scaffolds - General requirements.
- 1926.454 – Scaffolds - Training requirements.
- 1910.28 – Duty to have fall protection and falling object protection.
- 1910.29 – Fall protection systems and falling object protection-criteria and practices.
- 1910.333 – Selection and use of work practices.
- 1926.21 – Safety training and education.
- 1926.452 – Additional requirements to specific types of scaffolds.
Of course, you can review each standard yourself to learn the specifics.
But if you’re looking for a brief overview, the OSHA scissor lift requirements broadly focus on training, hazard awareness, repairs and maintenance, and safety procedures.
- Safety training and education: Employers are responsible for giving their employees training and education on scissor lifts. Furthermore, only properly trained and authorized personnel can operate scissor lifts
- Hazard recognition: Operators must be aware of hazards when working at heights along with any ground conditions that could affect the safety and stability of the lift
- Fall protection: Scissor lifts should have guardrails. Furthermore, workers are prohibited from leaning against or standing on the guardrails
- Inspections and repairs: Personnel should inspect scissor lifts before operating. Any defects should be noted and repaired before operating
Now, OSHA’s standards are not the only rules for scissor lifts.
ANSI (American National Standards Institute) also sets industry standards for scissor lifts.
What’s the Difference Between OSHA’s Standards and ANSI’s Standards?
If you’re not familiar with ANSI, it’s a private, nonprofit organization that creates industry standards for aerial working equipment.
OSHA, on the other hand, is the government agency tasked with ensuring workplace safety.
Now, OSHA’s standards are law.
ANSI’s standards, meanwhile, are voluntary industry regulations.
So does that mean you don’t have to follow ANSI’s standards?
That’s because OSHA often incorporates ANSI’s rules into its standards.
Effectively, that makes them the law.
Furthermore, disregarding ANSI’s scissor lift rules can put you in violation of OSHA’s “General Duty” clause.
This clause states that employers must keep their workplace “free from recognized hazards.”
So, you must understand and follow both OSHA and ANSI’s rules.
Scissor lifts are safe and reliable - as long as they’re used properly.
But, when misused, scissor lifts can present serious safety hazards to workers.
In fact, OSHA noted 10 deaths and 20 severe injuries involving scissor lift accidents in a single year.
Knowing the top scissor lift hazards can help prevent deaths and injuries.
So, What Are the Top Scissor Lift Hazards?
OSHA classifies the following as the biggest preventable causes of scissor lift injuries and fatalities:
- Fall protection
Let’s discuss these hazards in detail below.
Scissor Lift Fall Protection
Scissor lifts must have guardrails to prevent workers from falling off the platform.
To ensure scissor lift guarding and fall protection, operators must:
Always check guardrails system’s condition before operating the scissor lift
Never stand on the guard rails (only stand on the lift’s work platform)
Never lean over the guardrails or away from the lift to reach tasks (work only within reach)
A common question is: Do you need a harness on a scissor lift?
Answer: Not necessarily.
To explain, let’s focus on OSHA scissor lift harness requirements.
OSHA states that scissor lift operators must be protected from falls from heights.
But doing so only requires a guardrail that conforms to OSHA’s standards.
If that’s the case, operators do not need a safety harness.
But if the guardrail isn’t up to par, then a harness is required.
Another common question is: Can you use a ladder on a scissor lift?
Using a ladder, planks, buckets, step stools, or any other device on the lift platform to extend your reach can cause you to fall over the guard rails.
You might be wondering: Can a scissor lift fall over?
Yes, if it’s not properly stabilized.
That’s why scissor lift stability is essential for operator safety.
Here’s what they can do to prevent a scissor lift tip-over:
Follow the lift’s manufacturer instructions for safe movement
Isolate the lift from worksite traffic and other moving equipment to prevent potential impacts
Only operate the lift on firm, level surfaces away from potential instability hazards. These include holes, slopes, bumps, drop-offs, debris, or other ground obstructions
Only use the scissor lift outside when weather conditions allow. The allowed weather conditions are on the operator’s manual
Keep the weight on the lift’s work platform below the manufacturer’s rated limit
Ensure proper maintenance of the safety systems that stop the lift from collapsing
Can You Drive a Scissor Lift While Elevated?
Yes - provided the manufacturer allows it.
To determine if that’s the case, check the owner’s manual.
For instance, the operator’s manual for a Genie GS-1930 scissor lift states:
“Do not drive over 0.5 mph / 0.7 km/h with the platform raised.”
How you position your scissor lift has a lot to do with scissor lift safety.
After all, scissor lift operators are exposed to hazards like crushing and electrocution.
This is why operators should be cautious when:
Operating the lift near a fixed or stationary object
Using the lift close to a moving or mobile equipment
Moving the scissor lift below fixed objects like ceiling beams or door frames
To prevent electrocution, it’s recommended to:
Operate the lift in locations not near electrical power sources. For instance, don’t use scissor lifts within 10 feet of energized power lines
If operators must work near power lines or electrical sources, ensure that the worker is properly trained and has certified electrical training
Use ground guides and traffic control to prevent other workers or move items (like vehicles) from getting too close to the lift
Yes, you do.
According to OSHA’s scissor lift certification requirements, you need scissor lift safety training from a qualified trainer.
What to Include In Your Scissor Lift Training Checklist
If you’re conducting in-house scissor lift training, ensure your training follows OSHA’s guidance, including:
- Awareness of hazards and how to handle them: This includes electrical, fall, falling object hazards, along with any other relevant workplace hazards
- Procedures for proper operation: This includes how to operate the scissor lift, weight capacity limits, and how to handle any materials used on the platform
- Inspection and maintenance: This includes noting any defects as well as how to maintain the scissor lift
- Refresher training: This should happen when there are changes in the workplace, the type of scissor lift, or when the operator displays inadequate knowledge of safe practices
Besides OSHA’s scissor lift rules, you’ll also need to incorporate ANSI’s updated scissor lift standards into your training.
We’ll cover that below.
The New ANSI Scissor Lift Standards and What They Mean for You
In December 2019, ANSI updated the A92 standard for aerial lifts, including scissor lifts.
What does the update mean to you?
If you’re a scissor lift owner, user, supervisor, or operator, it means big changes to training and safety.
While there are quite a few changes, the main ones are:
Employers must develop and document a safe use program specific to scissor lifts
All operators' previous scissor lift training is now null and void, and they need to be re-trained under the new standards
All supervisors who oversee personnel operating scissor lifts need to have specific supervisor training
All platform occupants must have a basic level of knowledge to work safely on scissor lifts, including how to operate the controls in an emergency
For a more detailed explanation, you can download Genie’s “Updated Training Requirements for Safe Use and Operation of MEWPs in North America” white paper here.
(Note: You’ll need to enter your email address to download it.)
Scissor lift maintenance is important for both operator safety and the longevity of the machine.
Keeping on maintenance will grant you many benefits, including:
Extended service life
Lower repair cost
Scissor lift maintenance should consist of both scissor lift inspections and preventative maintenance.
Let’s cover each.
Scissor Lift Inspections
How often should you conduct scissor lift inspections?
Answer: Inspect your scissor lift every day before use, at shift changes, and whenever a new operator starts using the machine.
Doing so helps avoid putting employees and the machine in danger.
Along with inspections before use, operators should also assess the lifts after use to verify the scissor lift’s condition.
These two aerial lift inspections allow the opportunity to resolve any problems before the next use.
What Should You Inspect?
Every manufacturer provides specific inspection items for their scissor lifts.
So you should always consult the owner's manual to find out what those are.
That said, most inspections will focus on:
Any leaks (oil, fuel, or battery fluid)
Dents, cracks, or comprised welds
Pneumatic, electric, and hydraulic systems
Instructions, written warnings, and placards
Mechanical fasteners, harnesses, and locking pins
Guardrails, cables, and wiring
Outriggers and stabilizers
Loose or missing parts
Preventive Scissor Lift Maintenance
Other than inspections, you need to perform regular preventive maintenance and follow the required scissor lift safety rules.
These inspections are based on the hours in operation.
A qualified equipment mechanic should inspect the scissor lift every 150 hours or 3 months, whichever comes first.
Additionally, you’ll need to perform an annual inspection no later than 13 months after the prior one was done.
What Should You Inspect?
Preventative maintenance checks should include:
Checking all fluid levels. This includes engine oil, coolant, fuel, hydraulics, and keeping an eye out for any leaks
Checking tires and wheels. Look out for worn tire treads and bubbles or cracks in the sidewalls. Check if tire pressure is at the correct PSI
Evaluating the lift’s guardrails position and verifying that they’re strong and sturdy
Performing battery maintenance on electric units. Check the battery charger and make sure it has a full charge
Testing the braking and steering system to ensure they’re fully operational
Making sure all the machine’s safety gear is in place and in good working condition. This includes fall protection, safety harnesses, and reflector jackets
Testing all of the machine’s emergency controls. This includes the horn, lights, backup alarms, and gauges
Checking the scissor lift’s stability. If the lift feels unbalanced or is on uneven terrain, don’t use it
Using manufacturer-approved replacement parts
Additionally, you should keep a detailed history of the lift’s maintenance records.
That’s it: The complete guide to scissor lift safety.
Now we’d like to turn it over to you.
Are you up to speed on ANSI’s new scissor lift standards?
Do you have any further questions on scissor lift safety?
Please share with us in the comments section!