Operating a Boom Lift Without Fall Protection

If you’ve been trained in Aerial Lift operation (if you’re operating aerial lifts at all, then you should have been), you should already know that fall protection is required, according to OSHA and according to the lift manufacturers. But why? You’re completely surrounded by rails, right? Why is it different than a scissor lift?

They’re probably as easy to find as a construction site with boom lift operators that aren’t using any personal fall arrest systems. It’s a common sight from maintenance crews changing light bulbs in a shopping center parking lot to sign installers, to construction workers, a great number of them don’t know or don’t care that they’re supposed to be “tied-off”. In fact, I’d venture to say that from a purely anecdotal standpoint, boom lift operators that properly utilize fall protection are in the vast minority.

This could be for a number of reasons. Sure, it could be the “it won’t happen to me” mentality, but more than likely there are other factors: lack of concern on the company owner’s part which translates to lack of training, and lack of proper equipment is probably the most common reason. Lack of oversight by somebody who is properly trained is probably another. Being rushed for time contributes, I’m sure, as it does for many workplace safety violations and incidents. Regardless of the reason, it is all too common and, as we can see here, extremely dangerous.

As you can see from the above video, it really doesn’t take all that much. Sure, you might know not to drive off a curb, but what about a small pothole you hadn’t noticed. When you’re operating a boom lift, you’re probably at least 40’ away from the base of the machine if not a great deal more. How can you be 100% positive that your surface is flat and solid? You should have done a walk-around of the machine and checked out the ground where you’ll be working, but people make mistakes. People miss things. Ground conditions change. Voids collapse. Machines have to be moved further than planned.

What if we take our own mistakes out of the equation altogether? This type of incident doesn’t just occur from driving off a curb or into a depression. Construction sites can be crowded places. If that loader backs into your lift, or if that crane accidentally drops a load on your boom, or any number of other things, you can be thrown. Most of the lifts I’ve seen used in parking lots to change bulbs have no traffic control around them and the parking lots are active. If a car or truck loses control or isn’t paying attention to where they’re going, the same results will occur.

The fact of the matter is this: accidents can and will happen. It is up to you to protect yourself and your workers as best as you possibly can. This includes being compliant with OSHA regulations, and possibly going above and beyond their requirements. You can find out more about a what you need to be compliant operating a lift . Read it, buy what is necessary, train your workers, and enforce your safety program before one of your employees ends up like the man in this video.

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