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Understanding the Unique Potential Hazards of Aerial Lifts

Extensible and Articulating Boom Lifts are useful pieces of equipment with specialized features, uses, and also unique potential hazards. Learn more about the specific dangers of working with aerial lifts.

Overhead view of a construction worker on an aerial lift.

Extensible boom lifts are very helpful when you need to access heights without the expense of a crane and without the set-up required to use a scaffold.

Articulating boom lifts are especially useful when needing to access difficult to reach areas and interior locations with high ceilings and odd angles

OSHA Construction Standard 1926.453(b)(2)(ii) Only authorized persons [designated by the employer] shall operate an aerial lift.
OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.67(c)(2)(ii) Only trained persons shall operate an aerial lift.

Only trained and authorized operators can use aerial lifts! Employees must receive training in the safe operation of the lifts so they will understand and avoid unsafe conditions that could lead to injuries.


  • Always use proper fall protection when operating an aerial lift.
  • Never alter or disable warning devices or limit switches – they are there to help avoid tip-over hazards.
  • Survey the area to identify and avoid floor drains, uneven surfaces, pipes, pits, holes, debris or other potential hazards.
  • Never climb or sit on the edge of the platform.
  • Avoid windy weather when operating an aerial lift outdoors. Consult the user’s manual for the maximum wind speed use limit.
  • Ensure there is not other equipment in the area that may bump into the aerial lift risking a tip-over. Consider alternating activities with the other equipment operators if needed.
  • Follow manufacturer’s capacity limits and never overload an aerial lift.
  • Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for moving any aerial lift around the job area or work site. All aerial lifts are different and may have different recommendations.
  • Do not use the aerial lift as a crane and do not carry objects larger than the platform.
  • Do not exceed vertical or horizontal reach limits.
  • Set up work zone warnings, like cones, barricades or signs, when necessary to warn others.
OSHA Construction Standard 1926.453(b)(2)(iv) and OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.67(c)(2)(iv) Employees shall always stand firmly on the floor of the basket, and shall not sit or climb on the edge of the basket or use planks, ladders, or other devices for a work position.
Worker on an aerial lift dangerously standing on the side rails.

Common hazards with aerial lifts include:

  • Electrocution from accidental contact with energized wires
  • Tip-over hazards from driving on steps or unstable surfaces
  • Collisions or struck-against hazards
  • Fall hazards from improper use of the lifts and failure to use proper fall protection

Always look for overhead power lines and electricity lines feeding adjacent buildings and structures. Danger signs should be posted warning aerial lift operators of potential hazards.

OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.333(c)(3) If work is to be performed near overhead lines, the lines shall be deenergized and grounded, or other protective measures shall be provided before work is started. If the lines are to be deenergized, arrangements shall be made with the person or organization that operates or controls the electric circuits involved to deenergize and ground them. If protective measures, such as guarding, isolating, or insulating, are provided, these precautions shall prevent employees from contacting such lines directly with any part of their body or indirectly through conductive materials, tools, or equipment.

Remember these important safety precautions when working with aerial lifts:

  • Always inspect the aerial lift prior to use.
  • Do not use an aerial lift in any area with poor ventilation.
  • Only use lifts that you are trained and authorized to use.
  • Survey the area to identify and avoid floor drains, uneven surfaces, pipes, pits, holes, debris or other potential hazards.
  • Use proper PPE and fall protection when operating an aerial lift. Ensure you are not wearing loose clothing that could get caught in any part of the lift and tie back long hair.
  • Look for over head power lines and electricity lines before and during lift operation.
  • Never sit or climb on the edge of the basket or use planks, ladders, scaffolding or other devices on an aerial lift.
  • Avoid distractions while operating any aerial lift and do not use any heavy equipment while fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Follow manufacturer’s capacity limits and never overload an aerial lift.
  • Never override any safety devices on the aerial lift. These features were put in place by the manufacturer to help ensure operator safety.
Worker on an aerial lift performing pipe maintenance.

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