Designers, architects and construction companies are providing the public with dramatic new building designs and interior configurations. These developments are made possible by new materials, new software applications, and new types of construction equipment. One of the most important pieces of such new equipment is the aerial lift. Since many of these lifts are now available as rentals, it is important for operators to understand their benefits also present new dangers.
Exceptional Capabilities Come with Added Risk
Prior to the development of modern aerial lifts and related aerial work platforms, construction techniques were severely limited by access to work areas. This meant a reliance on scaffolding and jury-rigged supports for workmen. Aerial lifts change that limitation and provide additional advantages of speed and cost savings. However, the nature of these modern marvels also creates new and significant risks to construction workers.
According to the Construction Occupational Safety and Health, aerial lifts cause an average of 26 deaths on worksites each year. This represents 2 to 3 percent of all such fatalities in the construction field, and makes the aerial lift one of the most dangerous pieces of construction equipment.
Electricians are the most affected by the risks of aerial lifts, accounting for 25 percent of all such deaths. OSHA reports that the extreme reach of these lifts, as much as 335 feet, too often allows them to contact or arc with unnoticed overhead electrical wires. Workers falling from the platform and operators allowing tipovers are also cited as too-frequent problems.
Special Requirements and Training
While aerial lifts offer substantial savings on construction and maintenance projects, they can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. This reality creates a strong rental market for such equipment and use by inexperienced and poorly trained operators. OSHA is aggressive in addressing this concern, and the agency provides a number of safety courses and operating tips for aerial lifts. Additionally, there are a number of OSHA-endorsed training and certification courses for lift operators.
Addressing the most common problem, workers not familiar with electricity should be carefully educated concerning overhead or structural power lines. Lift operators should know that actual contact is not necessary to create a dangerous situation, including fatal electrocution. At least a 10-foot clearance from all electrical sources is a safety minimum.
Anyone who anticipates using an aerial lift on any construction site or project should take the time to understand the special risks these automated tools bring to the job. As a minimum, it is important to review the OSHA safe work practices and ensure all workers on and around an aerial lift respect its limitations. Additionally, talk with a rental company, like Power Equipment Leasing Co Inc, about its company-specific safety precautions.