AWPT Demonstrates Risk of Operating Boom Lifts without a Full-Body Harness

Aerial lifts are a safe way to work at heights, but workers who do not wear a full-body harness when operating a boom-type aerial lift are running a risk of serious injury or death from being catapulted out of the basket. Aerial Work Platform Training, Inc., Schenectady, N.Y., showed the effects of not wearing a full-body harness in a boom lift during a public demonstration in the ConExpo Safety Zone.

The exhibit consisted of a Skyjack SJ 45T jib-equipped telescopic boom lift with a cage welded over the platform and a 145-pound mannequin dangling from the top of the welded cage without wearing a harness. The boom was arranged in a low position, and then the machine was driven over two 5-inch curbs. As the machine rode over the curbs, the audience witnessed the mannequin bouncing around the platform, demonstrating the catapult effect.

“We wanted to show that you don't have be going far or traveling high to have this dramatic impact,” said Tony Groat, executive vice president of AWPT. He added this also demonstrates the same effect as if the boom lift was static but had been hit by a forklift or bumped by a crane's load.

According to Groat, the idea for the demonstration came from observing a real-life incident in which a boom lift operator was driving over a curb and actually bounced high enough that his feet were elevated more than the mid-rail. “It prompted us to look into showing the same thing,” he said. “But doing it safely was our main concern.”

While traffic in the ConExpo Safety Zone was “semi-sparse,” Groat said the demonstration always gathered a crowd. He said operators approached him after watching the demonstration and told him they now recognized the danger of working without a full-body harness. But after talking to equipment operators who shared stories of similar catapult effects, Groat said it was disheartening to hear that it is not an uncommon occurrence. “It just raises the level of need for the Click-It! campaign,” Groat said.

To view a video of AWPT's dramatic catapult-effect demonstration, visit www.awpt.org.