The Four Primary MEWP Hazards

The number one rule  of safe aerial lift operation is:

Avoid Hazardous Situations

We avoid hazardous situations by first identifying them in the safety section of the manufacturers’ model specific operator’s manual for the mobile elevating work platform to be operated.

Proper training, common sense and planning can help you avoid hazards associated with aerial lift operation.  Let’s discuss the four primary hazards associated with aerial lift operation one at a time.

The first four of the primary hazards are:

Tip Over Hazards

  • To avoid tip overs, never operate an aerial lift on a surface that exceeds the manufacturer's maximum slope rating. This information can be found in the operator’s manual.
  • Aerial lifts are intended to be elevated only on a firm level surface, unless the machine is equipped with outriggers that will allow safe elevation on a sloped surface.
  • Do not operate the machine in strong or gusty winds.
  • Never increase the surface or sail area of the platform. This will significantly decrease machine stability.
  • Never attach overhanging loads to any part of the aerial platform.

Fall Hazards

  • All aerial lift operators should stand with their feet firmly on the floor of the platform.
  • Never climb on platform guardrails.
  • Make sure all access entry points are closed and the guard rails are properly installed.
  • Use a full body harness and appropriate lanyard when required, attached only to designated manufacturer installed anchor points on the platform.

Full body harness fall protection with fall arrest and fall restraint lanyards are required on boom lifts, but as safety protocols increase, most companies are calling for aerial lift operators to wear Personal Fall Protection Equipment on scissor lifts and vertical mast lifts as well. Be sure to check with your employer to make certain you follow job site and governmental agency specific requirements.

Collision Hazards

These include hazards to the aerial lift and surrounding areas as well as personnel collisions that result in injury.

  • Never lower the platform unless the area below is clear of personnel and obstructions.
  • Look first before lowering the platform and honk your horn to sound a warning.
  • Limit travel speed according to ground condition, slope and other personnel or other vehicles operating in the workplace.
  • Make yourself aware of limited sight distances and blind spots as well as boom position and tail swing when working on a telescopic or articulating boom lift.

Electrocution Hazards

  • Aerial platforms are not electrically insulated and provide no protection from electrocution.
  • It is mandatory that all operators fully understand the potential for electrocution when operating an aerial lift.
  • Keep away from any platform that comes in contact with energized power lines.
  • Operators must be aware of the voltage of all power sources in their work area and maintain the required clearance.

Information regarding the required clearance from all power sources can be found in the operator’s manual and on safety decals attached to the machine.

Be especially aware of working near high voltage overhead power lines. These lines are most often not insulated. The operator or any part of the machine will not have to come in direct contact with a power line to be in extreme danger. High voltage electric current can jump up to 45 feet to seek a ground.

There are other hazards  that can be found in the safety section of your MEWP operator’s manual including component damage hazards, explosion and fire hazards, damaged machine hazards, crushing hazards and bodily injury hazards so take the time to read, understand, and remember all hazards when moving and setting up your aerial work platform.

This article is designed to be an overview to help operators recognize and avoid some of the hazards associated with aerial lifts and is not intended to take the place of comprehensive operator training and hands-on familiarization of the specific machine to be operated.

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