Do Workers Need Fall Protection on Scissor Lifts?

Scissor lifts are one of the most popular ways for workers to reach projects at heights. But do the guard rails on these lifts provide all the fall protection necessary for the workers utilizing them?

Do workers need additional fall protection on scissor lifts and other aerial devices?

The American National Safety Institute (ANSI) deems guard rails around the work platform to be a sufficient fall prevention measure. But in practice they may not be. Fall protection needs to be evaluated in relation to the work being performed. If you have a scissor lift in operation at your facility, it’s a good idea to have your OSHA-defined competent person evaluate the potential fall hazards posed by the work performed in your lift.

Are scissor lifts superior to ladders? Of course. They offer a compact, stable, and highly maneuverable platform from which to work. Once a worker is trained on the scissor lift, they can drive it directly to the project, raise the platform to the desired level, and get to work. But the possibility does exist that certain jobs may require body positioning which puts a worker in danger of falling either through the space below the rails or over the top of the guardrails.

Corrective measures for potential falls often include the use of a fall arrest system. Incorporating these new safety measures into your existing fall safety program will include not only the use of an anchor point, connection device, harness, and SRL or appropriate lanyard, but also a plan for prompt rescue in the event of a fall. Most lifts will include a clearly marked and rated anchor point. If yours does not, it’s important to contact the manufacturer before installing this anchor point to receive structural information and authorization.

Fall arrest in scissor lifts is most often accomplished with the use of self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) like the DBI-SALA Nano-Lok made specifically for a bucket truck or aerial lift. Because most work is done at an average of 14 ft. according to EHS Magazine (Vol. 6, No. 2), shock-absorbing lanyards often don’t serve because their average clearance can be over 16.5 feet. Workers need to be fully aware of the distance to the next lower level and understand the limitations of their fall protection when using lifts.

A critical exploration of the work performed in scissor lifts on your site may provide protection both of your employees and of your legal position in the event of an accident. For more information on fall protection suitable for scissor lifts, bucket trucks, and other worker lift platforms, please give us a call at 800-829-9580.

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4 comments on “Do Workers Need Fall Protection on Scissor Lifts?
  1. scissor lift says:

    Yes, it is good to have precautionary fall protection to be safe while operating a scissor lift.

  2. John says:

    Do I need to have a rescue kit when working on a scissor lift with a full restraint harness??

    • Justin McCarter says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the note. Here’s the thinking – You don’t need a rescue kit until someone falls or becomes incapacitated (electrocution comes to mind). Restraint is definitely the best. But there are lots of situations using boom trucks and scissor lifts where the lift malfunctions at height and can’t be lowered. And if someone needs greater mobility while working on your lift and is using fall protection instead of restraint, the problems become far more pronounced once they have fallen outside the guardrails. How do you get them down, or back in? If they are injured or unable to help responders, how can you safely release them from their fall protection attachment?

      At a Petzl training last year, one of the points they really stressed was that you can’t simply cut the line that’s holding up your rescue victim. They are in a safe position (not taking suspension trauma into account for a moment), and cutting the straps that hold them will likely result in a second jarring fall. If the rope rescue equipment isn’t properly secured, the second fall might be worse than the first.

      Calling emergency services isn’t a fall protection and rescue plan. You need to have a realistic plan to get someone down from your scissor lift, and figuring that plan out before there is an emergency might make all the difference.

      Hope this helps.

      PK Safety Supply

  3. It was a really nice write up. Looking forward to read more about Hydraulic Scissor Lifts from you.

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