Your Guide to Understanding Boom Lifts [Articulating & Telescopic Insights]

Aerial lift equipment is used in a wide range of industries on job sites and in facilities around the world. Boom lifts, in particular, are an ideal choice for applications where you need to lift workers, tools and materials extended heights to get the job done.

Two different types of boom lifts dominate the market today: Articulating and Telescopic. Choosing the right boom lift for your project will make all the difference in how efficiently, how safely and how profitably you complete the task at hand. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the different types of boom lifts you’ll encounter, boom lift training expectations and boom safety requirements.

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1. Articulating Booms

Articulating booms are aerial work platforms with multiple boom sections that hinge — or “articulate” — allowing the operator to gain access to work areas over obstacles and barriers. Also referred to as “knuckle booms” or “up-and-over booms,” these versatile machines are perfect for tight access and hard-to-reach areas.

Why Choose an Articulating Boom?

  • You need access in confined work areas. Narrow models are ideal for the tightest, most congested spaces. Some booms even have zero tail swing, which means the far end of the turntable does not extend beyond the edge of the drive chassis when it’s rotated.

  • You need to reach over obstacles. Articulating booms have less horizontal outreach than telescopic booms, but they provide greater versatility to reach up, over and out to access work areas.

  • You’re working indoors. DC electric power models or clean-burning, LPG fuel models aren’t hard to find. These articulating booms have non-marking tires and are ideal for indoor use.

  • You need to travel over rough terrain. Rough-terrain models are designed for rugged, unimproved construction sites. Features include LPG or diesel engines, lug-tread tires, an active oscillating axle (for enhanced traction) and four-wheel drive.

  • You need extra reach from the platform. Some articulating booms offer a boom extension, called a “jib,” between the end of the primary boom and the platform. Jib booms add another articulation point for the platform to move up and down, or side-to-side.

2. Telescopic Booms

Telescopic booms are aerial work platforms with boom sections that extend straight outward and upward. They’re also commonly known as “stick” booms because of their straight appearance. Telescopic booms offer greater horizontal outreach than any other type of aerial platform — ideal for areas with limited access in construction, industrial, entertainment, road building, bridge work, painting and inspection applications.

Why Choose a Telescopic Boom?

  • You need the maximum combination of height and outreach. Telescopic booms are ideal for accessing work from a distance — where the terrain or obstacles prevent close access. Outreach capability is often as important as working height on these models.

  • You have a rugged, unimproved work site. Telescopic booms with four-wheel drive and active oscillating axles are designed for maximum terrain-ability and traction.

  • You want to maximize your productivity. Telescopic booms are designed to get up into working position quickly.

3. Booms Equipped with Envelope Control

Envelope-controlled boom lifts are growing in popularity because they are able to achieve greater heights. If you’re new to envelope-controlled machines, there are a few basic things you need to understand.

What is Envelope Control?

Envelope control systems are developed with a calibration process. It ensures that the boom’s systems are aligned with job site conditions and that the systems provide safe operation and safe work practices for everyone on the job site.

Training Requirements for Envelope Control

All aerial operators should be familiar with the type of aerial work platform they are operating, including the layout of the controls and operating characteristics. This becomes even more important when the machine incorporates features such as envelope control.

To become qualified to operate you must be trained on the proper operation of the equipment by a trainer with detailed knowledge of the operations, safety features and technical aspects of this type of aerial device.

Once training is completed, it's important that your operators familiarize themselves with the operator’s manual. It provides detailed information about the specifics of each machine. The operators’ manual should be kept with the machine at all times.

Your operators must be equipped with this in-depth knowledge before operating an envelope-controlled machine, at any time.

Once your operators have been trained, regular refresher training is important to long-term success with your envelope-con­trolled units. It helps your operators keep current with latest manufacturer’s updates and changes to operating systems, and maintains the com­petencies they have gained. Refresher training should be conducted as often as necessary to make sure that all of your operators continue to work safely.

Maintenance on Envelope Controlled Units

It is extremely important in the case of envelope-controlled units that only trained, qualified technicians, familiar with the calibration pro­cess and safe operation of these machines, perform repairs and inspections on these units.

Booms with features like envelope control are more technically involved and require specialized training to safely maintain them.

4. Safety Requirements When Operating Boom Lifts

The number one priority on any aerial job site should be to promote a safe workplace. To do this, it’s important for everyone onsite to follow safety rules and regulations set forth by industry agencies such as ANSI and OSHA, as well as outlined in the equipment manufacturers’ guidelines.

Fall protection, such as wearing a harness and lanyard, is crucial for your safety when working on aerial equipment, such as articulating and telescopic booms. To prevent incidents and mishaps from happening it’s essential that you proactively make sure everyone who comes in contact with your aerial work platform understands and adheres to all fall protec­tion requirements.

Different types of aerial work platforms have specific requirements for fall protection, here’s what you need to know:

Fall Protection Requirements on Booms

Use of approved personal fall protection equipment (PFPE), in addition to a guardrail for operator fall protection, is required in the U.S. for boom-mounted aerial platforms. All occupants in boom‐supported aerial work platforms must wear personal fall protection, with the lanyard attached to the designated anchorage, whenever they are in the platform.

This requirement is mandated by the standards for Boom-Supported Elevating Work Platforms (ANSI A92.5 and CSA B354.4) and Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices (ANSI A92.2 and CSA C225) and enforced by OSHA.

Here is a general summary of fall protection requirements for boom-supported aerial work platforms:

  • The employer is responsible for providing approved fall protection for all employees/operators.
  • A personal fall arrest system used on a boom type aerial lift cannot allow the operator to fall more than 6 ft., exceed 1,800 lb. arresting force or allow the operator to come into contact with any lower surface.

Safety Tips for Operating Boom Lifts

When the equipment is in the field, your operators must follow the operating practices outlined in the manufacturer's recommended guidelines. Not only will this keep the equipment working safely, but it'll work more productively too.

The best way to prevent incidents from happening is to follow these tips for safe work practices:


Read, understand and obey all of your employer’s safety rules and work site regulations, as well as any applicable local, governmental or provincial regulations that apply before operating the machine.


Perform a pre-operation inspection and func­tion tests on the equipment before each shift. If the machine fails any of these tests, make sure it is imme­diately tagged and removed from service until it can be repaired by a qualified service technician.


Perform a workplace risk assessment prior to moving machine to the job site. Look for drop-offs and holes, slopes, slippery or unstable surfaces, overhead obstacles, power lines and any other hazards that may exist and develop a plan to avoid those hazards through all phases of machine operation.

Read up on avoiding overhead contact with power lines.


Wear the proper fall protection. A properly fitted full body harness and appropriate lanyard or self-retracting lifeline will reduce the potential for an operator being catapulted from the platform of a boom. The slightest jar at the base of the machine can equate into a sudden and powerful whiplash at the platform — if this happens, wearing the proper fall protection may reduce the chances of serious injury or even death.


Do not sit, stand or climb on the platform guardrails. The operator should maintain a firm footing on the platform floor at all times. If an operator is required to reach an overhead work area that is too small for the platform guardrails to allow access to, the use of a manufacturer-approved device, specifically designed to provide additional access to confined spaces, is recommended.


Do not exit an elevated boom lift platform unless you have been properly trained to do so, maintain 100 percent tie-off at all times and are in possession of an approval letter from the manufacturer that provides the proper guidance.


Do not climb down from the platform when it is raised. Whenever possible, keep a cell phone or two-way radio with you while you are in the platform and always have a rescue plan in place in the event that the lift is not equipped with an auxiliary lowering system (or if that system malfunctions).


Keep the platform floor clear of debris. Scrap materials, buckets, large tool boxes and other items can cause a serious tripping hazard — you should remove any item from the platform that is not absolutely necessary to do your work.


Lower the platform entry mid-rail or close the entry gate before operating an aerial work platform. Never tape or prop the entry open, and never use a boom lift if the gate does not properly latch.


Receive proper training (both general training and hands-on practical training), and take the time to familiarize yourself with make yourself the exact boom lift you will be operating. This includes thoroughly reading the operator’s manual and safety signs on the machine, as well as understanding the function and location of all safety devices and controls before beginning operation.

Be sure to follow these simple, safe operating tips to keep your aerial work platform performing pro­ductively day in and day out, from one application to another.

Content in this post is provided by Genie, a Terex brand.

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