Aerial Lifts: Training Required and Enforced
Does a person need to be certified to operate an aerial lift? According to OSHA, an aerial lift is “any vehicle-mounted device, telescoping or articulating, or both, that is used to position personnel.”
Aerial lifts can be found on most construction sites and are used by almost every trade group. The two most common aerial lifts found on a jobsite are boom lifts and scissor lifts.
DO OPERATORS HAVE TO BE CERTIFIED?
The simple answer is no. Currently, there are no requirements set forth by OSHA or the manufacturers of aerial lifts for operators to be certified. Here is the catch though: Just because there is no certification does not mean operators do not have to be trained. According to OSHA Subpart L, 1926.453(a)(2), “only authorized persons shall operate an aerial lift.”
HOW DOES ONE BECOME AUTHORIZED?
One word: training. Training is an essential part of any successful safety program. Whether the training is on tools, equipment or specific means and methods, training can greatly reduce the risk exposure a contractor may inherently experience on a typical construction jobsite. When it comes to aerial lifts, OSHA does not provide the specific training requirements necessary for operators. However, the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) does provide the needed training requirements for aerial lifts.
AERIAL LIFT TRAINING
The standards published specifically for aerial lifts are A92.5-2006 – boom-supported elevating work platforms and A92.6-2006 – self-propelled elevating work platforms.
Although ANSI standards are completely voluntary, it is in every company’s best interest to comply with them. ANSI standards are not written into OSHA law; however, a contractor can still be cited for not following them. Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” OSHA can cite contractors as a General Duty Clause violation if not following ANSI standards when they are viewed as the industry’s best practice.
WHAT DOES THE TRAINING CONSIST OF?
The ANSI standard states that “only personnel who have received general instructions regarding the inspection, application and operation of aerial platforms, including recognition and avoidance of hazards associated with their operation, shall operate an aerial platform.”
Such items covered shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following issues and requirements:
- purpose and use of manuals;
- importance of operating manuals and proper storage (e.g., must be in a weather-resistant compartment when not in use);
- pre-start inspection;
- responsibilities associated with problems or malfunctions affecting the operation of the aerial platform;
- factors affecting stability;
- purpose of placards and decals;
- workplace inspection;
- safety rules and regulations;
- authorization to operate;
- operator warnings and instructions; and
- actual operation of the aerial platform (e.g., under the direction of a qualified person, the trainee shall operate the aerial platform for a sufficient period of time to demonstrate proficiency in the actual operation of the aerial platform).
Once the general instruction training is complete, qualified trainers can move into familiarization training for the different aerial lifts being used. Familiarization training is machine-specific training that covers:
- the location of the weather-resistant compartment (for manual storage);
- the purpose and function of all controls; and
- the safety devices and operating characteristics specific to the aerial platform.
Familiarization training does not take the place of the general instruction training. Familiarization training can be completed in as little as 15 minutes by the supplier from whom the aerial lift is rented. It is to be completed byr operators who have already met the general instruction training requirements. These trainings are completely separate. The estimated time frame to complete the general instruction training is anywhere from two to six hours depending on the size of the training group and number of different aerial lifts to be trained on.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
If contractors or employees are utilizing aerial lifts, make sure the operators have completed the proper training. This training can be conducted by a qualified person and is offered by aerial lift manufacturers, suppliers and training centers, or can be done internally as long as the person conducting the training has the skills and knowledge needed to put on a successful training course.
Aerial lifts are growing in popularity on construction sites as more contractors move away from ladders. OSHA has seen an increase in aerial lift accidents in recent years and as a result published a Hazard Alert on Scissor Lifts in February 2016. Aerial lifts are an extremely versatile work platform and are very safe when used as intended by the manufacturer. But combining untrained operators with improper platform use can be a recipe for disaster.