Safety Spotlight on Aerial Lift Equipment
Boom lifts, telescoping lifts, and aerial work platforms enable front-line technicians to perform essential maintenance and engineering tasks in hard-to-reach areas throughout institutional and commercial facilities. Unfortunately, too many technicians also use these pieces of equipment in ways that are unsafe and potentially hazardous.
A closer look at the top safety mistakes technicians make when using lift equipment, along with a discussion of advances in new-generation equipment design to maximize user safety, can offer managers guidance in addressing these safety issues through technician training.
In a recent four-year study of 35 aerial lift-related deaths, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that about 80 percent involved falls and electrocutions. The leading causes were: no safety procedures around energized electrical equipment; careless operation; outriggers not extended; boom off-center, causing imbalance; and untrained workers allowed to operate aerial work platforms.
A significant finding was that customers could have eliminated or significantly reduced these incidents by implementing better visual and oral communication around work sites. This finding is further evidence of the lack of training in proper procedures and timing of training when it does the most good.
The quality of the training is essential for safe operation, as is its immediacy. Qualification training and certification sometimes occur weeks or months before operators actually use the equipment, so timing is essential. Refresher sessions should be held right before each use for each operator. Refresher sessions are important because the actual work conditions for the job, while not known during initial training, are known when the project begins.
This refresher training also can incorporate the pre-job safety and preventive maintenance (PM) checklists, as well as verbal and oral communication procedures. So if an operator uses the aerial lift equipment on successive days, the refresher training must occur at the beginning of each shift because work conditions evolve as the job site undergoes changes. It should encompass a pre-job inspection of both the equipment and the work site.