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By Thomas A. Westerkamp
Equipment Rental & Tools Article Use Policy
New-generation aerial work platforms and other types of lift equipment are designed to give front-line technicians even easier, safer access to tough-to-reach areas of institutional and commercial facilities. But maintenance and engineering departments can maximize the equipment's capacity if managers avoid crucial mistakes when either renting or purchasing.
By understanding the five most common mistakes managers make during the rental or purchase of lift equipment, managers will find themselves in a better position to select the most appropriate lift equipment for their departments' needs.
Mistakes in renting or purchasing lift equipment can be costly, not only to the bottom line but also in terms of safety and productivity. By avoiding these common mistakes, managers can make smarter specification decisions.
Hazards. Too often, managers fail to consider potential hazards associated with the use of aerial work platforms. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), common hazards related to lifts that lead to workplace injury or death are: falls; objects falling from heights; tip-overs; ejections from platforms; collapses; electric shock; entanglements; contact with objects while moving; and contact with ceilings or overhead objects.
In some cases, several of these hazards are present at the same time. For example, a worker can become entangled in a cable attached outside of the platform and be dragged off the platform. Also, a worker can touch an electrified object and receive an shock, causing a fall from the platform.
Training. Managers also can fail to fully consider training during the specification process. OSHA recommends training and re-training at appropriate times. Training should follow any major changes, such as: accidents that occur during the use of an aerial lift; when workplace hazards are found; and when users are about to use a different aerial lift or accessory, such as fall protection, hoists, welding equipment, and power cables.
Outdated specifications. Managers should not assume that yesterday's and today's specifications are the same. It is a big mistake to replace the outdated aerial lift with a new one using the same specifications. Doing so creates two risks. First, the lift needs and job site conditions might be different than when the last purchase occurred. Second lifts with new technology might offer safer, more productive alternatives at a lower cost.
Needs. Underestimating or overestimating functional requirements can be a big problem. For example, a manager specifies a boom lift when obstructions on the job site actually require employees to use an articulated boom lift. The boom lift might only satisfy height requirements. This mistake could lead to technicians leaning or climbing out of the platform to reach to the job, which is a dangerous situation.
Reach. Underestimating or overestimating a lift's reach requirements also can be problematic. If crews use a lift with a boom that is too long or too short, this could change the working conditions. For example, a unit with too long a boom could result in the need to lower the boom so the weight is far off center of mass, causing an imbalance beyond the ability of the lift to control, resulting in a tip-over. Using too short a boom could result in the worker trying to reach the job by climbing onto the platform railing or building structure and falling.
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