Fall protection in aerial lifts – What are the requirements?

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Earlier, we wrote a blog about the requirements for wearing fall protection when working inside a suspended platform or gondola. Besides this type of facade access equipment, other types of machines are often used as well: Mobile Elevated Working Platforms (MEWP).

As the name suggests, these are in fact mobile lifts that are used to reach areas at height. They are hydraulically or pneumatically powered and operated by the worker inside the cradle. MEWPs are used to provide access to for example lantern posts, electric masts, lower building facades or bridges.

In this blog we will discuss the requirements of wearing fall protection in two of the most common MEWPs: Cherry pickers (or Boom lifts) and Scissor lifts.

Working from inside a cherry picker

These are vehicles that have a (telescopic) boom with a basket or platform at the end to position workers inside it towards a work area at height.

Fall protection in a cherry picker – OSHA requirements

The basket of a cherry picker needs to be equipped with guardrails at 42 inches (1,1 meter) above the floor and toe boards to form a safe work area, according to the ANSI A92.2 standard.

Additional to that, the OSHA states that a fall arrest system has to be used when working with a cherry picker. The worker needs to be attached with a full body harness and a short lanyard to the tie off point on the cherry picker, or to the rail that serves as the guardrail.

The reason that a short lanyard needs to be used is because when the cherry picker is moved, the basket may bounce, swing or tilt due to movement or uneven surfaces, possibly launching the worker outside of the basket. To prevent this, body restraint is needed in form of a fall protection system.

Because the worker should always stand firmly on the floor of the basket, he/she should never get into a position where a fall is possible. Besides that, the cherry picker may tumble over when a fall is arrested. That’s why this fall protection is meant as restraint and not as a fall arrest system.

The only exception where the decision can be made not to use fall protection is when work is performed near or above water. Being restraint to the basket or boom when the machine falls into the water is not desirable in that case and may result in drowning.

Fall protection in a cherry picker – EN requirements

The EN standards state that a cherry picker needs to be provided with guardrails on all sides to prevent a fall from happening.

Nevertheless, it’s strongly advised to wear a fall restraint system to provide extra safety in case the basked bounces, tilts and sways, because the cherry picker is moved.

Important! The length of the lanyard should be short enough to prevent a person from reaching a position from where a fall might occur. An energy absorber may be used, but only when the system is still used as a fall restraint system. Furthermore, a proper tie off point needs to be present inside the basket.

Also, according to the EN requirements, when the cherry picker is used near or above water, the decision can be made not to wear a harness, but life jackets instead, to prevent drowning.

Working from inside a scissor lift

A scissor lift is a vertical lift with a hydraulic, pneumatic or mechanical powered platform. The name is derived from the crisscross placement of the mechanism that pushes the platform upward. Apart from mobile scissor lifts, also static lifts exist.

Fall protection in a scissor lift – OSHA requirements

First of all, scissor lifts are classified and subdivided under the requirements for scaffolding (and not under ‘aerial lifts’). The regulations regarding the use of fall protection when working on scaffolds (in this case scissor lifts) are outlined in paragraph 29 CFR 1926.451(g) “Fall Protection”.

Sub-paragraph 1926.451(g)(1)(vii) states: “For all scaffolds not otherwise specified in paragraphs (g)(1)(i) through (g)(1)(vi) of this section, each employee shall be protected by the use of personal fall arrest systems or guardrail systems meeting the requirements of paragraph (g)(4) of this section.”

Since scissor lifts are not mentioned in paragraphs (g)(1)(i) through (g)(1)(vi) and have to be standard equipped with a properly designed guardrail system, no additional fall arrest system is required when working in a scissor lift.

Just as with a scaffold, the guardrail system must be between 1,1 meter (42 inches) and 1,2 meter (45 inches) above the working platform. When mid rails are installed, they have to be placed in the middle between the top rail and working platform, with a maximum distance of 48 centimeters (19 inches) between the different rails.

When working inside a scissor lift, it’s not permitted to stand on the guardrails or having to reach far away from the scissor lift in order to prevent falls.

Fall protection in a scissor lift – EN requirements

It’s not required to wear additional fall protection when working in a vertical lift. Just as outlined in the OSHA standards, a proper guardrail system is sufficient to provide protection against falling.

The only exception here is that a job specific risk assessment prior to the work may indicate the need for wearing fall protection when work is performed inside the scissor lift. For example, a situation may require the person to reach far outside the lift towards a certain work area.

Local laws and requirements

Keep in mind that the described regulations are often complemented with local laws and requirements. When you are planning to work from inside a cherry picker, scissor lift or another type of MEWP, make sure to check the local requirements in your region!

NOTE: Although laws and regulations don’t always oblige the use of fall protection, we strongly advise to do so if the situation allows it.

Download fact sheet

We have created a simple factsheet whether fall protection is mandatory when working from inside a gondola, suspended platform system or a MEWP. It is based on the OSHA regulations (United States) and European Standards (Europe).

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13 Comments. Leave new

  • If the user is not expected to fall out of the MEWP and all he needs is work restraint, meaning no fall, why does OSHA require a full fall arrest system?

    Reply
  • One must remember that OSHA Standards are reactive to previous events. Contractors should go above the Standard if they want tonkeep their workers safe. Training has to be thorough and informative!

    Reply
  • I think the most important fact is to know that the anchor points in scissor lifts and cherry pickers are proved as in EN280 required for max load of 3KN. Normal PPE with shock absorbers could damage or brake the attachment point because of to high forces. Even the rail with sharp edges can be a risk! D-A-CH-S is an international group of Experts from Switzerland, Germany, Austria and South Tirol (Italy) whose aim is to create harmonized rules / best practices for safe work at height in a compact form. Latest results of research and development are taken into consideration, but national laws and rules remain always in effect.

    Reply
  • Safety is must important! Using an aerial lift is risky business. Electrocutions, falls, and tip-overs pose the greatest risks for aerial lift operators. Do not operate an aerial lift unless you are trained and authorized and also maintain and handle a lift according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Reply
  • Bob Whitfield
    19 July 2018 16:30

    Thanks for the helpful blog. safety in aerial work platforms is a major concern within my industry.

    Reply
  • Bob Whitfield
    4 October 2018 16:20

    Rescue needs to be considered when using AWP’s (MEWP’s). Here is my most recent discussion on that. Here is the direct link: https://community.intelex.com/explore/posts/awp-rescue-article-bob-whitfield

    Reply
  • Richard Epp
    4 October 2018 16:36

    OSHA requires a 42″ guardrail, not 38″, and I have never read a scissor lift or trial device operating instruction that allows tying off to the guardrail, they always state “to the labeled (or designated) anchor point” . I was surprised to see these mistakes in your literature, you are always spot on.

    Reply
  • Robert Gill
    25 March 2019 09:49

    This is actually a good and useful piece of information. I’m glad you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this.

    Reply
  • William Mark
    6 June 2019 12:31

    This is really a well known information that everyone of industry keep to know. We need these type of information for up to date & conscious about these topics

    Reply
  • Hello, I agree with you and I have the same point of view. After reading your post I understand the message you to convey because we are also providing Boom Lift Scissor Lift Training that help to improve skill and knowledge of applicant.

    Reply
  • Aerial Platforms
    25 December 2019 20:45

    Hi, We are Aerial Platform Manufacturer from Turkey. Thanks for good article.

    Reply

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