Aerial Work Platform Safety: What Really Happens in the Field?

In the course of my work as an AWP Specialist, I visit construction jobsites over 500 times a year.  In Cal-OSHA preliminary figures for 2010, roughly 60 percent of construction fatalities in California involved falls or equipment.  Aerial work platforms present hazards for both falls and equipment, so it is critical that refresher training concentrate on what happens in the field—and be jobsite specific.


Somewhat common non-conventional uses and practices have a tendency to be at the heart of most safety infractions.  Be aware of them and train consistently to avoid the mishaps associated with these field practices.


Scissor Lift Monkey Bar Dismount: Three-point stance is the best practice and the ANSI standard. While it takes longer, it results in less potential for injury.  I personally know of one ironworker with one less finger who regrets making a Monkey Bar Dismount.


Connecting Fall Protection Lanyards to Non-Anchorage Locations in AWPs: Anchorage points in scissors and booms have been tested and rated.  Railings and other platform components are not designed for the dynamic directional force of a falling person.


Use of Aerial Work Platforms on Uneven or Sloped Terrain: This is perhaps the leading cause of injury due to tipovers.  All manufacturers specify that equipment be “elevated” only on firm, level surfaces.   


Using Boom Lifts as Cranes:  Suspended loads are particularly dangerous to boom and scissor lifts.   Dynamic forces exert unpredictable loads on the structure and center of gravity that can potential cause a tipover.


Not Connecting the Mid-Rail Chain or Lowering the Slide-Down Gate on a Scissor Lift: Without this protection, it is quite possible to “walk off” and fall from the platform.  It is also one of the most common infractions in AWP safety citations.


Using the Platform Mid-Rail to Reach Higher Elevations: A conventional misconception is that this is OK as long you are “tied off” and is frequently observed in the field.  It is never OK to put yourself in an increased likelihood of falling out of the platform. Standing on the toe-board or mid-rail of an AWP will often lead to an operator’s center of gravity being above the top rail, which is very dangerous.


Blatant disregard for training and manufacturer’s safety guidelines is often the cause of accidents with AWPs.  I recommend refresher training during normal safety meetings to reinforce best practices and discourage non-conventional practices.


About the Author: 

Dave Siefert

Dave Siefert is "The Lift Guy." Connect with him on twitter @theliftguy or text THELIFTGUY to 22828 to receive his monthly newsletters.