Proud to Earn a PAL Card

I’m proud to recently have earned a PAL card, verifying that I’ve been trained to operate scissor and boom lifts safely. I’m not likely to work in an aerial lift often, but I will get the chance to run one in order to evaluate how it operates, position it for an event, or reach a work site while researching an article. Even though I’ll use a computer keyboard several thousand times more than a lift’s controls, it’s vital I know how to use a lift safely when I get the chance.
 
The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) issues a Powered Access Licensed-registration (PAL) card to certify that the person named and pictured on the card has completed training at an approved training center. It is recognized throughout the industry as proof of operator training to the highest standard.
 
Beyond just teaching you how to operate a lift safely, training for a PAL card educates you to look at the larger safety picture: how to make sure you have the right lift for the job; how to assess the safety of the worksite before and during operation; how to plan and prepare for emergencies; and how to properly inspect a lift before using it.
 
 
Exciting and interesting day
I trained at Skyjack’s IPAF-approved training facility in St. Charles, Ill. The training and testing all took one full, interesting day.
 
Some people may prefer to do the classroom portion online, but I enjoyed doing it on site. I learned valuable tidbits from Skyjack instructor Derek DeBruyn and my nine classmates: six Skyjack employees, an instructor in training, a consultant, and the facility manager of a research lab.
 
Instructor DeBruyn set a comfortable tone right away by making the atmosphere welcoming and open to questions and comments.
 
The class spent the entire morning learning about ANSI safety standards, OSHA regulations, industry best practices, ANSI manuals of responsibility, manufacturers’ operator manuals, how to systematically inspect a machine, test its ground and platform controls, check its safety systems, and look for site hazards.
 
The end of the morning brought a multiple-choice test. If you didn’t pass, you didn’t advance to the hands-on inspection and operational training. Everyone in my class passed, so after lunch we gathered around a scissor lift and, later, a 60-ft. boom lift for hands-on training.
 
Instructor DeBruyn carefully explained each step as he showed us how to inspect and test a lift. He told us what to look for, why each item was important, and how to test the lift's systems.
 
He then patiently guided each of us as we performed our own full inspection. By the time we had watched the other students do inspections and had done one ourselves, each of us had the process down.
 
The operating test required us to run the lift through a typical cycle. In the scissor, that meant raising and lowering the platform, and steering through a course of orange cones while traveling forward and backward. Hitting a cone meant failure. It was challenging, but I made it.
 
The boom lift operating exam required traveling forward and backward, steering, swinging and extending the boom, positioning the basket along a roof line, then returning to the starting position. At the end of the day, I had passed both tests. It was an excellent experience.
 
PAL trainers often hold classes at their facilities, but some will also train groups at a company’s own facilities. To find out more about providers and costs, visit IPAF’s North American arm, American Work Platform Training (AWPT), at www.awpt.org.
About the Author: 

Mike Larson

Mike Larson has been writing about heavy equipment and construction for more than 25 years. He joined Heartland Communications Group in 2011 as editor of Lift and Access. During his career, he has edited Western Builder and Midwest Construction, and has been a regular contributor to Engineering News-Record and Constructor magazines. Larson also worked in and managed marketing communications for Manitowoc Cranes. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.