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Fall Protection – Scissor Lifts and Aerial Lifts

- December 6, 2017 by Erin Silva, CSP (View all posts by Erin)

When a ladder no longer makes sense to use, we turn to a scissor or boom lift. Ladders are convenient for quickly getting up and down, but should not be used to perform work at any significant height. The likelihood of falling increases since they are easily tipped and do nothing to prevent a worker from falling.

Scissor Lift vs. Aerial Type of Lift

That leaves us with either a scissor lift or an aerial type of lift. OSHA does not consider a scissor lift to be a type of aerial lift; scissor lifts instead fall under the scaffolding requirements. When we are talking about aerial lifts there are two main types: Articulating knuckle booms and Telescopic straight booms. Articulating booms have multiple sections that articulate and allow the user to gain access to work areas that may be more difficult to access because of obstacles.

Fall Protection

The main difference behind fall protection in a scissor lift and an aerial boom lift is that scissor lifts have built in fall protection from the guard rails that are part of the working platform. The rails prevent employees from falling over the edge as long as they are used properly.  In the case of an aerial lift, employees must be tied off 100% of the time because the design does not prevent employees from falling out. Keep in mind, that OSHA does allow for additional fall protection in a scissor lift, but in this case the manufactures instructions must be followed.  For example: some manufacturers of scissor lifts recommend the use of a fall restraint system. This positions an employee and physically restrains someone from leaving the basket or falling from it. Other forms of fall protection are not allowed, because the force of a person falling out could potentially cause a scissor lift to topple.

Tie-Off Requirement

When using an aerial boom lift there are more options to fulfill the 100% tie off requirement. You have the option of using a positioning lanyard similar to what can be used in some scissor lifts, and you can also use a retractable lanyard which allows employees to move more freely. In some cases you can also use a personal fall arrest system with a fall arrest lanyard. There is no one size fits all solution, so make sure that each situation is properly evaluated.

One final consideration is to make sure your attachment points are meeting regulatory requirements. Never tie off to guardrail, and use only designated attachment points.

For more information on the OSHA standards specific to scissor lifts take a look at:

CFR 1926.451; for additional information on the use of aerial lifts see: CFR 1926.453.