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Lift operators must know and understand the following items about the device before initial operation:
• purpose and use of manuals
• pre-start inspection process
• identification of malfunctions and problems
• factors affecting stability
• the purpose of placards and decals
• workplace inspections
• safety rules and regulations
• authorization to operate
• operator warnings and instructions.
If more than one employee will use a lift at different times in the same work shift, each operator needs to follow all safety rules and instructions in the operator’s manual. This requirement means every new employee should perform a pre-operation inspection, function tests, and a workplace inspection before using a lift.
Safe lift operation requires both managers and equipment operators to focus on key activities and responsibilities.
The first step is to perform a walk-around inspection to determine if the lift is mechanically safe. Inspectors should check operating and emergency controls, safety devices, such as outriggers and guardrails, personal fall-protection gear, wheels, tires, and other machine components specified by the manufacturer.
They also should look for possible leaks of air, hydraulic fluid, and fuel, as well as loose or missing parts. They immediately should remove lifts from service that do not operate properly or that need repair. A qualified mechanic must make all repairs using equivalent replacement parts.
The second step is to evaluate the worksite to determine if it is safe for operating a lift. Inspectors need to ensure the site has a level surface that will not shift, and they have to check the slope of the ground or floor. A machine might not work properly on steep slopes that exceed manufacturer limits. Inspectors also should look for hazards, such as holes, drop-offs, bumps, debris, and overhead power lines.
The third step is performing a test to determine if the equipment functions safely. Function tests are designed to discover malfunctions before operators use the lift.
The operator must follow the step-by-step instructions to test machine functions, inspecting each lift based on manufacturer requirements. For instance, one manufacturer recommends inspections by qualified individuals every three months or after 150 hours of use, whichever comes first.
Qualified mechanics also must perform annual certifications. Even if the lift has a current inspection certificate, operators must test the unit’s functionality before use, including testing its operational and emergency controls.
The fourth step is evaluating the competency of operators to determine if they can operate the aerial work platform safely. Operators often lack the training to know they are creating safety hazards.
Lift operators must receive documented training before obtaining approval to operate the equipment. OSHA requires a qualified person to train users on recognizing and handling hazards involving electricity, worker falls, and falling objects.
Training must include knowing the maximum intended load and load capacity. They must demonstrate the ability to use the lift in compliance with manufacturer requirements. If the hazards or the type of aerial lift changes, or if operators are not using a lift properly, they must receive more training.
Finally, operators must be able to shut down and store the lift properly. When the units are not in use, operators must stow them securely by following manufacturer instructions.
Typical recommendations include fully lowering the platform, engaging the red emergency-stop buttons, turning the key switch to the off position, and removing the key. Additional steps might include disconnecting the battery cable and removing the battery pack, as well as inspecting the entire machine for loose or unsecured items.
Users should store the lift in a clean, secure area and avoid using the platform for material storage.
Following Lift Safety Guidelines Avoids Accidents, Citations
Manuals Help Ensure Proper Lift Operation and Maintenance
Lift Safety: Operator Checklist
Lift Safety: Avoiding Falls and Securing Work Areas