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Man Lift Safety: The Hazards Lurking Overhead and Underneath

- July 22, 2016 by Guest Bloggers (View all posts by Guest)

I often encourage the use of man lifts over ladders, for the simple reason that they offer a safer work platform. However, they also present unique risks that workers don’t come across with ladders, which could put your employees at risk. As part of mySafetynews’ continued focus on fall prevention, I will be sharing the man lift hazards that lurk above, and lie below, that your team must consider when working at elevation.

The Risks that Lurk Above a Man Lift

When working outside, overhead electrical power lines can be deadly. If a lift contacts or comes too close to power lines, the equipment can become energized and your employee can be electrocuted. Check out my colleague, Glenn O’Rourke’s post, “Look Out (Above) for Overhead Electrical Power Lines,” for more information about power lines.

OSHA requires that cranes not operate within 10 feet of a 50kV power line. To safely use your scissor lift, the 10 foot rule is a great guideline.  But for higher voltage, your teams should stay even further away. OSHA1926.1408 includes a Minimum Clearance Distances table that you can reference.

Inside a building, the risks include being struck by, or pinned, between the lift and the ceiling, beams, or another fixed object. Being struck on the head can result in a minor bump or a crushing death. When working near fixed objects, operator error or control malfunction could allow the lift to rise up too close to the fixed object trapping a body part. Daily equipment inspections equipment and operator training are critical to prevent these incidents.

The Risks That Lie Beneath a Man Lift

Before moving a lift on to any surface other than the ground, always confirm the floor can support the weight of your man lift. In June 2016, a lift fell through a floor at a construction site, seriously injuring both employees on board. I ask myself, “did this contractor realize that he was working over a basement?” He may not have. Knowing the load rating of the floor could have prevented these injuries. When a building is in under construction, posted load limits may not be accurate.

Always check with the general contractor, engineers, and architects for load information before bringing your lifts into a building.

Man lifts can be great alternatives to scaffolding and ladders when working at heights—as long as you train your employees to use them safely. I’m happy to address any questions you have in a future post—please share your feedback in the comments section.