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By Thomas A. Westerkamp
Equipment Rental & Tools Article Use Policy
Given the state of budgets and finances today, maintenance and engineering managers are wise to spend more time researching products and equipment before making a final purchase decision. They can use the same deliberate approach when renting equipment to ensure the expenditure delivers the intended benefit for the organization.
Consider one of the most commonly rented pieces of equipment in institutional and commercial facilities — aerial work platforms. Managers who find the answers to seven critical questions before calling a rental company to discuss equipment options can use the information to make sure they select the most appropriate aerial work platform.
What size aerial work platform does the job require? Managers can answer this question by determining technicians' needs for height and reach, platform space for workers, materials and tools, and cubic space clearances for travel and storage.
For example, if technicians need to reach vertically to perform a task and that task is 20 feet above the ground, they can reach it with a scissor lift. But if the task is 200 feet high and requires a 20-foot horizontal reach, as well, they need an articulated boom lift with a 200-foot boom and a 20-foot jib.
Size also applies to the physical footprint and retracted height of the aerial lift platform. Will it fit through tight spots, such as interior doorways, when moving between job sites? Is adequate space available to store it when not in use?
What load capacity does the job call for? Capacity is a measure of the power needed to raise loads to the working height. If a task requires lifting only personnel with tool belts to the working height, it does not require as much capacity as it would if workers also need to raise an electric generator, air compressor, or paint-spray equipment to the working height.
Is the unit easy to use? If the task is a straightforward application, a manager can specify basic operating controls. But if the task involves a complicated combination of terrain and reach requirements, managers might need a computerized dashboard that calculates the load, matches it with the amount of slope on which the unit is parked, and analyzes the torque loads versus the machine capability to determine if the set-up is safe.
What power source is required? Generally, lighter capacities use electricity, and heavier capacities use diesel fuel or liquid propane, but a considerable overlap exists. Location also determines the power source. Inside work generally requires electric power, due to indoor air quality requirements. By contrast, renting a unit that uses diesel fuel would create noise and emissions problems indoors.
What options or accessories do technicians need? The application again comes into the picture. If workers need to weld at the working height, they need oxy-acetylene, electric arc, or wire welding or burning equipment on the platform. If they are changing fluorescent lamps, they need lamp holders that conserve space and minimize the chance of breakage. Other accessory options include electric generators, air supplies, power tools, cleaning equipment and fall protection.
What obstructions might be present? A walk-though of the work site can reveal several potential obstructions on the ground and overhead. Ground obstructions can include obstacles workers must maneuver around, including trees, guard rails, lamp posts, and other vehicles and equipment that can be in different locations.
Surface smoothness is another factor. If the surface is level and paved, such as a parking lot or an interior floor, solid tires will work. But if the surface is rough ground, sloping terrain, or rubble, the lift will require pneumatic tires and independent wheel suspensions.
Overhead obstacles can include electrical-distribution systems, piping, structural beams, columns, bridge overpasses, and low-hanging tree limbs.
What operator training is required? In the interest of providing a safe operator environment, agencies have developed standards for renting aerial lifts that include specific training methods.
For example, ANSI A92 says managers must train every operator and keep records of technicians who have received training. Managers also can use training CDs and include documentation procedures that allow each trained operator to sign off on the training. The rental agent also needs to conduct hands-on training for the specific aerial lift platform users are renting.
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