When working on a jobsite, using an aerial work platform, it is extremely important to keep safety as your first priority. Here are 5 safety tips to remember to keep you safe when operation an aerial work platform on a jobsite.
1) Avoid Hazardous Situations
Depending on the make and model of the lift system being used, a variety of hazards will be outlined within the operator’s manual. First, is a tip-over hazard. Tip-over hazards can be avoided simply by evaluating the surrounding environment, and by staying within the platform’s limits, outlined in the operator’s manual. Some things to consider: Is the ground firm and level? Remember, always operate on firm and level ground, unless the equipment has outriggers, and is specifically designed to work on sloped surfaces. Another question to consider: If outdoors, is there a strong wind? On the ground the wind might feel fine, but 150 feet in the air, a strong wind gust can cause a tip-over. Also, tip-over hazards can be created by users going outside the load capacity of the machine, or by attaching an overhanging load to the side of aerial platform. Using the platform outside of the parameters expressed in the operator’s manual can cause serious or fatal injuries, so always know what the machines limits are, and stay within those parameters. Next, are fall hazards. When operating a self-propelled or a trailer mounted boom, all users must wear personal fall protection equipment, which includes, a full body harness and appropriate lanyard in accordance with government standards. Lives have been saved by wearing the proper fall protection equipment. Many fall situations are created by user error, such as climbing, standing, or sitting on the railing of the basket, or, as dumb as it might sound, trying to climb up or down the platform when it is raised. Always make sure the guardrails are properly installed, and that the entry is secured before taking the lift up to work in high places. Next, collision hazards. Collision hazards seem to be the most obvious to avoid, yet are the most common type of hazard encountered on the jobsite. To avoid collisions always maintain complete situational awareness when operating an aerial work platform. Things to keep in mind: Check for overhead obstructions, be aware of crushing hazards, check below the lift for obstructions or personnel when lowering the equipment, be aware of the boom and counterbalance in relation to the work space and personnel, check for blind spots when traveling, and always limit speeds to a minimum. Finally, and probably the most fatal hazard to avoid, are electrocution hazards. Aerial work platforms are not electrically insulated and provide absolutely no protection from electrical hazards. Guidelines for clearance and distance to be maintained from electrical conductors can be found in the operator’s manual, and on decals installed on the equipment. Always maintain full situational awareness when working near powerlines, and always keep a safe distance. Extremely high-voltage electricity can arc up to 45 feet to seek a ground, and can result in serious or fatal injury.
2) Always Perform a Pre-Operations Inspection
It falls upon the operator’s responsibility to perform a pre-operations inspection before operating the equipment. Prior to each work shift, a competent operator must check the equipment. Even if he/she used the machine the day prior, there is no guarantee that overnight something didn’t break down. Machines break, it is a fact of life. Things to look for: any hydraulic fluid leaks, oil leaks, damage to wheels, exposed electrical wires, any visible damage to the cage or loose guardrails, damaged decals, and is the operator’s manual stored on the machine? An aerial work platform absent of its operator’s manual can result in hefty fines if caught by inspection. The pre-operations inspection is a general walk-around to spot any obvious malfunctions in the equipment before performing the functions test, and it is a wise investment that could prevent a serious or fatal injury when working at extreme heights.
3) Always Perform a Functions Test Prior to Use
Prior to operating an aerial work platform, the user should always perform a functions test on the ground before using the equipment in the air. A proper functions test will discover any malfunctions in the equipment, and could potentially prevent a serious incident on the jobsite. To be safe, it is best to run through all of the various operations of the lift system. It is better to discover that the boom will not descend while you’re on the ground, than 150 feet in the air. If a malfunction is discovered, the machine is to be tagged and pulled off the jobsite immediately, taking it out of use. Only a qualified service technician, according to the manufacturer’s specifications should perform any service repairs. After the equipment returns, always perform another pre-operations inspection and functions test prior to use.
4) Inspect the Workplace
A workplace inspection will help the operator determine if the area is safe for aerial work platform use. Always maintain full situation awareness when operating lift equipment. Things to consider: Is the ground firm and level? Will there be any obstacles in the way when operating the equipment? If outdoors, are there any powerlines? Is the wind unsafe? If indoors, are there any walls or windows to be aware of? Are there any overhead obstructions to watch out for? Remember to use common sense, and to always let others around you know your intentions of movement. Sometimes jobsites can get loud, or workers might have headphones or earplugs, preventing them from hearing you. It is always best to make visual contact with other personnel before moving equipment that could potentially cause an incident.
5) Only Use the Machine as it was Intended
The operator’s manual of each lift system should always be present with the equipment. The operating instructions section of the manual will provide instructions for each aspect of the aerial platform’s operations. Each operator is responsible to know and follow all safety rules and instructions contained within the operator’s safety and responsibilities manuals. Unless specifically permitted in the manual, aerial platforms should not be used to lift anything other than personnel and light tools. Most lift systems were not designed to lift heavy equipment. Furthermore, only trained and authorized personnel who are competent in the machine’s operations should be at the helm of the controls. If more than one operator intends to use the aerial lift system, then all operators must be trained and knowledgeable in the specific machine they intend to operate. Also, all operators must preform a pre-operations inspection, and a functions test prior to every use.