It’s one thing for maintenance technicians to use aerial work platforms to successfully access hard-to-reach places in institutional and commercial facilities. It’s another thing — and a much more desirable goal for the technicians — to do so safely.
For manufacturers of lift equipment and equipment rental agencies, the second scenario also is more desirable, but it presents a frustrating challenge. For all of the technology advances and safety training these companies offer, equipment operators can only be safe if they actually use the technology and training.
“No matter what training an end-user receives, no amount of training will automatically lead to safe work practices,” says Scott Reynolds, president of Teupen USA Inc. Simply paying for training and showing up is not enough for operators. The training resources also must be comprehensive enough to prepare workers to use the equipment properly.
“One of the challenges is to help customers understand that (only) 15-20 minutes of training is a disservice to the employee and the organization they work for,” says Teresa Kee, director of environmental health and safety with NES Rentals.
Today’s aerial lifts have evolved to meet the changing demands of maintenance and engineering departments and the tasks front-line technicians need to perform. Generally, the units reach higher than their predecessors, offer greater lifting capacities, and are easier to maneuver into and within facilities.
One technological change involves direct electric drive, which has become a key advancement for electric-powered lift equipment, says Jeff Ford, senior manager of marketing communications with JLG Industries Inc., adding the technology provides improved duty cycles and longer life from one charge than previous models.
New-generation aerial work platforms also feature a number of advances that make them easier and safer to use, Reynolds says. Advances include: improved pothole protection, which is designed to catch a machine before the unit’s tire completely enters a hole; redundant safety systems; computerized monitoring systems, such as basket-load sensors and alarms; and user-friendly controls that are intuitive and that technicians can learn with minimal training.
“The control panel should not be so complicated that the user needs the operator’s manual to give step-by-step instructions,” Reynolds says.
Manufacturers also have designed and updated products to address the need for greater sustainability in all areas of maintenance. Ford points to hybrid machines as an example.
“These electric-powered units have an engine-powered generator on board that can charge the battery when electricity is not available,” he says. “These units can be used in environments where traditional engine-powered units had to be utilized, and (they) have expanded the feasible use of greener electric power to new applications.”
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